Bulldogs sweep Eagles

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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NATCHEZ — A change in defense from man-to-man to zone defense paid dividends for Natchez High School’s varsity boys’ basketball team as the Bulldogs rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat the Florence High School Eagles 58-55 last Tuesday night in an MHSAA Region 5-5A game.

Natchez High senior guard Kameron Carter had yet another stellar performance as he led all scorers with 18 points. Two of his teammates who stepped up for the Bulldogs were senior guard Brandon Paige and junior forward Preston Jenkins, who finished with 15 and 10 points, respectively.

“Brandon has done really well for us the last couple of games. He’s one of our top reserves. He comes in and plays hard for us (off the bench),” Bulldogs head coach David Haywood said. “When you do things the right way, stuff starts to work for him. Last night he single-handedly changed the game for us. The way he was playing last night, I wasn’t going to take him out. He stepped for us last night. He hit some big shots for us.

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“Preston’s a kid that can do a multitude of things. Early in the season was one of the top players in the state in double-doubles. He plays extremely hard for us. He can play inside and he can play outside when we go small.”

One thing Haywood was none too pleased about was his team’s performance in the first half – especially on the defensive end. He noted that the Bulldogs’ struggles on offense carried over to the defensive end in the first quarter, and that allowed Florence to take an 11-6 lead by the end of the quarter.

Natchez High played much better offensively in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs’ struggles to get stops on the defensive end continued as the Eagles outscored them 20-18 to take a 31-24 lead into halftime.

“Once again we started out the game kind of slow out the gates. We weren’t as focused in the first quarter on the defensive end as I would like,” Haywood said. “In the second quarter, we played well offensively but we still weren’t focused on the defensive end. Our defense in the first half, we weren’t in sync.”

One player for Florence who took advantage of Natchez High’s defensive lapses in the first half was guard Carter Mullins. However, the Bulldogs switched from a predominantly man defense Haywood said his team played in the first half to a couple of zone defense to match up with Mullins. 

The strategy worked as Mullins ended up scoring the majority of his team-high 16 points before halftime. Nick Jones finished with 11 points and Cameron Lee added 10 points for Florence.

The Bulldogs outscored the Eagles 15-7 in the third quarter to take a 39-38 lead. The fourth quarter was much more competitive, but Natchez High was able to squeak out the win with a 19-17 advantage in the final eight minutes.

“The next time we played man was the last 45 seconds of the fourth quarter because we didn’t want Mullins taking a 3-pointer because he is capable of that,” Haywood said.

Natchez High (14-7, 2-1) travels to Laurel to take on West Jones High School in a big Region 5-5A game for both teams at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Natchez High girls 52, Florence 49

NATCHEZ — Zamonie Wilson led Natchez High School’s varsity girls’ basketball team with a game-high 15 points while Olivia Davis had 11 points and Hope Gudder chipped in with 10 points as the Lady Bulldogs rallied to defeat the Florence High School Lady Eagles 52-49 last Tuesday night in MHSAA Region 5-5A action.

Natchez High got off to a good start and led Florence 12-11 at the end of the first quarter. However, the Lady Eagles responded in a big way over the next two quarters. They outscored the Lady Bulldogs 11-7 in the second quarter for a 22-19 halftime lead and then 16-12 in the third quarter for a 38-31 advantage.

And just when it looked like Florence was well on its way to a big road win in region play, Natchez High answered on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter. The Lady Bulldogs put up 21 points while holding the Lady Eagles to just 11 points, giving the home team its first win of the season in Region 5-5A.

Starr Amos led Florence with 12 points and Faith Quick contributed with nine points.

Natchez High (12-9, 1-2) will look to continue its momentum when the Lady Bulldogs travel to Laurel to face off with region foe West Jones High School at 6 p.m. Friday.