By Josh Troy
It was business as usual for Coahoma County against Recent Site. The Red Panthers (26-2, 10-0) opened the playoffs at home Tuesday night with their fourth victory in as many postseason meetings since 2018. No. 1 seed Coahoma County defeated No. 4 Recent Site 60-34 on Tuesday to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Before Tuesday, the Red Panthers’ most up-to-date win against the Royals got here at Recent Site within the 2021 quarterfinals by a rating of 58-52. Coahoma County went on to win the 2021 Class 2A MHSAA basketball state championship for its fourth title in five years.
Because the Red Panthers look to get back to the championship, they’ll host Choctaw County at 6 p.m. Saturday with a visit to the quarterfinals on the road. Coahoma County fell behind 8-3, but finished the primary half on a 31-4 run to take a 34-12 halftime lead. Red Panthers coach Derrick Moore called a timeout when his team fell behind within the opening minutes.
“The coaches got on their butts,” he said. “They were too busy being focused on attempting to rating versus playing defense.”
The Red Panthers connected on 4 3-pointers in the primary half, with one coming from senior wing Demarjay Rucker, senior shooting guard Camron Bell and two coming from junior point guard Harlem Bell. Moore said after the early struggles, his team played its usual game and got opportunities outside. “We struggled to start with because we were attempting to play outside versus dumping it in and kicking it out,” he said. “We don’t play that way, and we’re going to go in after which out.”
Harlem Bell said the defense was a key to the victory for Coahoma County. “We stopped the backdoor cuts and the 3-point shooter,” he said. Junior wing Jerasmus Eagins led the Red Panthers with 12 points. He scored 8 of his points through the first half as Coahoma County pulled away. Senior power forward Kesean Maddox scored just 4 points, but he collected 15 rebounds within the win.
The Red Panthers capitalized on their lead by drawing fouls early within the second half. Recent Site had seven team fouls within the second half with 5:33 remaining within the fourth quarter. That put Coahoma County in a one-and-one situation from the free throw line. “We played defense without fouling,” Moore said. “That’s our thing.” Recent Site had 10 total fouls within the second half giving Coahoma County a double bonus from the free throw line. Coahoma County finished the second half with eight team fouls.
Moore put his younger athletes on the ground with the sport well in hand for the Red Panthers about halfway through the fourth quarter. Freshman wing Kendarious Sims and sophomore point guard Eddrick Turner each scored 2 points through the fourth quarter. Moore said the Red Panthers have a vivid future with the underclassmen. “Those younger guys can play,” he said. “You usually wish to get them in because next yr’s coming, and it’ll be their show next yr.”
Harlem Bell and freshman power forward Zechari Smith scored 8 points each, freshman small forward Caleb Hearn followed with 7, Rucker and Camron Bell added 5 apiece, senior small forward Drutavious Magsby contributed 4, and Turner and Sims added 2 each. On Saturday, Moore said he would study film to see what Choctaw County can do. But, for Coahoma County, the main focus will remain on defense. “We’ve to allow them to guys know we pride ourselves on defense,” Moore said. “I don’t care how much we rating; it’s about stopping the opposite team.” Harlem Bell believes good things are ahead for the Red Panthers. “We’re ready for the subsequent opponent,” he said. “We’re going to state.”