By Josh Troy
On Tuesday, Coahoma County High School shall be playing in a rematch from the 2021 state championship within the Class 2A MHSAA boys basketball semifinals. The Red Panthers (28-2, 10-0), currently on a 28-game winning streak, will face Newton within the semifinals at noon Tuesday on the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. CCHS, winners of 4 out of the last six state championships, defeated Newton within the 2021 title game 46-40. The Red Panthers earned a spot within the semifinals with a 28-27 victory against Baldwyn within the quarterfinals at Mississippi Valley State University last Wednesday. Nonetheless, coach Derrick Moore didn’t feel his team performed best.
Moore said Coahoma County was not slated to have a practice last Thursday, but after Wednesday’s performance, he made his team run hard. “We just needed to remind them (to play higher),” he said. Senior shooting guard Camron Bell led the Red Panthers with 8 points, junior wing Jerasmus Eagins, freshman power forward Zechari Smith, and junior point guard Harlem Bell all followed with 5 each, and sophomore center Hershel Washington added 4. The scoring was low, Coahoma County struggled to rebound a lot of the night, and Baldwyn had a probability to win with two seconds remaining within the fourth quarter.
Coahoma County committed a foul with two seconds on the clock, and Baldwyn went to the free-throw line to shoot a one-and-one. Baldwyn missed the free throw, and Red Panthers freshman small forward Caleb Hearn collected the rebound to secure the victory. Coahoma County led 13-9 at halftime, but Harlem Bell, Washington, and Smith each committed not less than two fouls in the primary half. Baldwyn scored 7 of its 9 first-half points on free throws and was held to 1 field goal throughout the opening two quarters. “The funny part about it,” Moore said, “we played good defense. Our initial defense was really good. They didn’t make the primary shots, but we didn’t rebound. They got putbacks, and we fouled them. That was their offense your entire night. “They snatched the offensive rebound. We fouled them, and they might go up and make the free throw.”
The Red Panthers scored 8 unanswered points to increase their lead throughout the second half, but Baldwyn got here back with 9 unanswered points of its own to make the competition closer and are available all the way down to the ultimate buzzer. Moore said that even when the Red Panthers don’t play their best, they find ways to win, because of their defense. “Some things you possibly can control,” he said. “Some things you possibly can’t. That shot stepping into the rim, sometimes it falls, and sometimes it doesn’t, but with effort and defense, you possibly can try this. You’ll be able to try this in all cases.”
Looking forward to the semifinals, Moore said Newton is small and can attempt to press. “You’ve got just got to be poised,” he said. “We’re equipped to handle pressure, and the pressure doesn’t trouble us. We have just got to ensure we keep us in front of us and play good defense. We’re not fearful about turning the ball over, and we actually don’t turn the ball over at a high rate. If we keep doing that, we must always be OK.” The winner between Coahoma County and Newton will play either North Side or Bogue Chitto highschool within the championship on the Mississippi Coliseum, with tipoff set for 3 p.m. Friday.