Coahoma County High School senior shooting guard Camron Bell had been in a self-admitted slump, but he picked what could be considered the most important game to come out of it. Bell scored the first 11 points for the Red Panthers en route to a 52-31 victory in the second round of the playoffs at home against Choctaw County on Saturday night. Bell finished with 16 points on four, 3-pointers.
Coahoma County opened with an 11-4 lead at the 1:32 mark of the first quarter, with all the points coming from Bell. Nine of Bell’s first 11 points came on three of his four, 3-pointers. The Red Panthers trailed 4-3 with 6:01 remaining in the first quarter, but Bell’s second 3-pointer gave them a 6-4 advantage with 5:26 to play in the period. They led for the remainder of the contest.
The win put Coahoma County (27-2, 10-0) in the Class 2A MHSAA boys basketball state quarterfinals against Baldwyn at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Mississippi Valley State University. A trip to the State Tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson will be on the line. “It was my last game at home as a senior, and I graduate this year,” said Bell after Saturday’s win. Then, we’re trying to make state, so I had to go ahead and play for the fans. I’ve been having bad games for the past few games, so I had to go ahead and show them I’m still me.”
Bell’s brother, junior point guard Harlem Bell, finished with 7 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals. The Bell brothers won two state championships together in 2019-20 and 2020-21. They are looking for another title before Camron graduates. “Gotta cherish the moment,” Harlem Bell said. “He’s going out at the top this year, and I’m going to be there to hold it down for him for the rest of the reason.”
Coahoma County coach Derrick Moore was pleased with Camron Bell’s performance. “It’s about time,” Moore said. “He’s been in a little slump lately, man. He set the tone offensively, so we needed him to be on top (of his game).” The Red Panthers won their two playoff games by a combined 47 points. They defeated New Site 60-34 and Choctaw County and Choctaw County 52-31.
“They put the defense at the forefront, man,” Moore said. “We created enough, and we played good defense.” Moore said the defense enabled Camron Bell to score the team’s first 11 points. “You’re playing good defense; you create easy buckets,” Moore said. “That was the case.” Coahoma County led 20-8 with 5:23 remaining in the second quarter, but sophomore center Hershel Washington scored all 6 of his points on the night to close the first half and extend the advantage to 26-11 at halftime.
Coahoma County had seven team fouls to Choctaw County’s three at the 2:21 mark of the first half, with the Red Panthers already ahead 26-11. That put the Chargers in a one-and-one bonus situation from the free-throw line for the remainder of the first half, but Coahoma County held its lead going into the locker room. Choctaw County committed three more team fouls in the final 2:11 of the first half. Coahoma County had seven team fouls at halftime to Choctaw County’s six.
The Red Panthers committed 10 team fouls in the second half, while the Chargers were called for eight. That put Choctaw County in a double bonus from the free-throw line while Coahoma County was only in a one-and-one situation, and Choctaw County should have capitalized. Moore expected the Red Panthers to commit more team fouls going into the game on Saturday but did not feel it would be a problem. “We got a lot of bigs,” he said. “We knew going into the game we had already said they got talented bigs, but we got a wave of bigs, so we’re going to use all those fouls. We’re good.”
Coahoma County is aiming for its fifth state championship in seven seasons. The Red Panthers won four titles in the previous six years but lost in the 2022 playoffs to Pine Grove and have a chip on their shoulders. “That was the thing the (Choctaw County) coaches said to me,” Moore said. “They said I know how you felt about going to Pine Grove last year. Go take care of business.”
While Moore was happy with how the Red Panthers played on Saturday, he will not celebrate during the season. “I’m just going to wait until it’s over,” he said. “We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We set a goal to get that gold ball. Right now, we’re two games away from (getting to the championship game).”
Junior wing Jerasmus Eagins scored 10 points for Coahoma County against Choctaw County, freshman small forward Caleb Hearn added 5 points, senior power forward Kesean Maddox scored 4 points and collected 13 rebounds, and freshman power forward Zechari Smith contributed 3 points.