Panthers knock on door of state tournament

By Austin Bishop
The Choctaw Plaindealer

There is no doubt the 2012-13 basketball season ended a couple games sooner than he had hoped it would, but French Camp Academy boys head basketball coach Tommy Ward was still very pleased with the 18-4 season his Panthers put together.

“Considering everything, it was a great year,” Ward said, reflecting back on his team’s 46-41 loss to Hinds AHS in the MHSAA Class 1A South State Tournament. “We were just five points short of going to the state tournament.”

The Panthers began last week with a 67-29 thumping of visiting Resurrection Catholic in the play-in round for the South State Tournament on Tuesday, then made the trip to West Lincoln on Thursday where they took a solid 54-45 win over Sebastopol.

Then came the loss to Hinds AHS in the semifinals. The top two teams from the South and the top two from the North advanced to this week’s state tournament.

The Panthers actually held a 16-15 halftime lead over Hinds AHS, which had upset No. 2-ranked Dexter 79-70 the night before.

‘We did what we needed to do in the first half,” Ward said. “We took them out of their game. But we got behind in the second half and had to fight to get back into the game. They got up by 12 on us, be we were able to cut it down to one possession.”

Hinds AHS scored a basket at the buzzer to make the final margin five points.

Ward said he expected good things out of his team going into the season and they produced.

“We knew we had a lot of players coming back and we were expected to do well,” he said. “We finished in first place in the regular season, then won the tournament. We had a lot of success.”

Dre Carter scored 19 points for FCA against Hinds AHS,while Jesse Hosket and Lamin Sillah tossed in 10 each. Sillah also had 11 rebounds, while Carter claimed nine.

FCA lead Sebastopol 14-4 after one quarter and 31-20 at the half, only to have the Bobcats whittle that advantage down to just two points at 37-35 with just eight minutes to play.

Carter led FCA with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Hosket had 10 points and Cortez Johnson pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.

The Panthers jumped all over Resurrection Catholic last Tuesday, holding a massive 41-7 halftime lead. Carter scored 16 points for the winners, while Hosket had 10 and Sillah eight.

The French Camp Academy girls played their best basketball at the end of the season and earned a home game in the MHSAA Class 1A South State play-in round last Monday.

The Lady Panthers held a 36-23 lead at the half, but were outscored by visiting Dexter 40-21 in the second half to drop a 63-57 decision.

FCA finished the year at 8-13, but finished the season by winning six of their last nine games, and finished second in the district tournament, upsetting top-seeded Nanih Waiya along the way.

Carlin West scored 16 points for FCA against Dexter, while Suna Kuac hit for 15 and Elexus Hughes 12.

“We really finished the season strong and got better as we went along,” said FCA girls coach Martha Ward. “We had our chances, but foul trouble hurt us and we started playing not to lose.”