Natchez High splits varsity doubleheader with Brookhaven High on Senior Night

Published 3:12 pm Monday, January 30, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Natchez High School senior shooting guard Javeon Walker snapped out of his recent slump at just the right time for the Bulldogs — on Senior Night last Friday night against the Brookhaven High School Panthers in an MHSAA Region 5-5A game.

Walker made seven 3-pointers and led Natchez High with a game-high 21 points as the Bulldogs cruised to a 61-44 win over the Brookhaven Panthers in the regular-season and region finale for both teams.

Defense was another huge factor for Natchez High as the Bulldogs held Brookhaven in check in the second and third quarters to overcome a surprisingly early deficit to the Panthers.

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“I think our defensive intensity throughout the game was the best we played all year. We seemed locked in on defense,” Bulldogs head coach David Haywood said. “I know it was Senior Night. We knew the energy would be high and we fed off that energy. We extended the press full court for three-fourths of the game and they never wore down. I think that was the difference in the game.”

Brookhaven, having a rare down season, came out ready to play in the first quarter and the Panthers did their best to match Natchez High’s intensity and to quieten the raucous home crowd. The Panthers led the Bulldogs 12-10 at the end of the quarter, but that lead would go away quickly.

Led by Walker’s shooting and senior center/forward Elvis Jenkins’ defense and rebounding, the Bulldogs outscored the Panthers 19-10 in the second quarter to go into halftime leading 29-22. Natchez High put the game away with a 17-9 advantage in the third quarter for a 46-31 lead.

“Elvis Jenkins went out there and got every defensive rebound that was there. He had something like 20 rebounds total,” Haywood said. “Javeon is a great shooter. The last couple of games, he hasn’t shot the ball well. When he doesn’t shoot the ball well, he tends not to shoot the ball enough and I get on to him about that. I tell him that he needs to keep shooting. We need him to shoot the ball well going into the tournament.”

Jaylen Haliburton was the only scorer for Brookhaven to finish in double figures with 10 points.

Despite the win, Natchez High lost a tiebreaker to Florence High School after both teams finished 4-2 in region play and will be the No. 2 seed in the Region 5-5A Tournament at West Jones High School in Laurel, which takes place on Tuesday and Friday.

The Bulldogs (16-7 overall) took on the No. 3 seed and host West Jones Mustangs in a first-round game at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Brookhaven High girls 68, Natchez High 46

NATCHEZ — Senior Night did not turn out the way the Natchez High School Lady Bulldogs wanted to as they lost to one of the top teams in all of MHSAA Class 5A in the Brookhaven High School Lady Panthers last Friday night.

Aliyah Watkins led Brookhaven High with 15 points and Madison Benson added 12 points as the Lady Panthers jumped out to a huge lead early and never looked back as they defeated the Natchez High Lady Bulldogs 68-46 in the regular-season and region finale for each team.

Brookhaven dominated Natchez High on both ends of the court in the first quarter, and that allowed the Lady Panthers to take a 23-2 lead over the Lady Bulldogs by quarter’s end.

The Lady Bulldogs tried to get back in the game as they outscored the Lady Panthers 16-12 to go into halftime down 35-18. But any thoughts of a comeback ended when Brookhaven outscored Natchez High 10-2 in the third quarter for a commanding 45-20 lead.

Natchez High played its best quarter of the game offensively in the fourth quarter as the Lady Bulldogs put up 26 points. However, they couldn’t nearly make enough stops defensively as the Lady Panthers scored 23 points.

Olivia Davis led Natchez High with a game-high 21 points, but the next high scorer was Jaliyah Wright with eight points.

The Lady Bulldogs (11-12, 1-5) will be the No. 4 seed in the Region 5-5A Tournament and took on No. 1 seed Brookhaven High School in the first round at a time to be determined.