FCA Panthers advance to South State tourney

By Austin Bishop
The Choctaw Plaindealer

You won’t have to listen long to hear French Camp Academy head coach Tommy Ward’s opinion on who has the best boys basketball team in MHSAA Class 1A.

After his Panthers rallied to beat Noxapater 54-51 in the play-in round on Tuesday, FCA travelled to Stringer where they fell to Hinds AHS 66-34 in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class 1A South State Tournament on Thursday.

“They are the real deal, that’s for sure,” Ward said of HAHS. “They beat everybody they played by an average of about 36 points. There may be somebody better in the North part of the state, but I would like to see them.”

Hinds’ four wins in the 1A South State tourney were impressive for sure. The Bulldogs opened with an 88-36 play-in round over Mt. Olive on Tuesday, then after beating FCA on Thursday, dispatched Salem 80-49 on Friday and then rolled to an impressive 76-48 win over West Lowndes in Saturday’s South State title game.

French Camp trailed homestanding Noxapater 24-18 at the half and 42-34 after three quarters of play before outscoring the Tigers 20-9 in the fourth quarter to take the three-point win.

“We were pretty flat,” Ward said. “They just seemed to be a little bit more motivated than we were during the first part of the game.”

Nyang Wek led FCA with 23 points and nine rebounds in the game, while Michael Erving scored 13 points and Cortez Johnson tossed in 11. Tevin Harris picked up six steals for the Panthers, who just hit 4-of-18 free throws for the night.

FCA trailed Hinds AHS 24-9 after one quarter and 42-12 at the half. Wek scored 23 points and had 12 rebounds or the Panthers, while Jesse Hosket had five rebounds to go with seven blocked shots for FCA

The FCA boys finished the year at 13-9.

“I think we went about as far as we could go,” Ward said. “It was good to make it to South State. If we had gotten a better draw we may could have gone a game deeper. I thought we had a pretty good season.”

The Lady Panthers fell to host Noxapater 66-62 in a play-in round game last Monday.

The Lady Panthers, who finished the year at 13-13, led 46-31 at the half, but were outscored 12-7 in the third quarter and 23-9 in the fourth.

“They kept the pressure on us the whole game and we lost our two most experienced ball handlers to fouls in the fourth quarter,” said FCA head girls coach Martha Ward. ‘That really hurt us.”

Suna Kuac led the Lady Panthers with 20 points, 19 rebounds and five steals, while Carlin West scored 12 points to go with six assists and four steals and Myesha Scott scored 16 points and pulled down six rebounds.

“If everyone comes back we should have a strong team next year,” Ward said. “We don’t lose anybody and will be senior heavy next season.”