Laurel boys, Lady Mustangs rolling in region
The second half of the Laurel-West Jones basketball game was much like the second half of the Tornadoes’ season — they were off and running.
Laurel (8-6, 3-0 Region 5-5A) won for the eighth time in its last nine games after turning a one-point halftime lead into a 63-45 runaway victory in a packed home gym over their rival from Soso on Friday night.
Austin Lindsey had 11 points, Cameron Jones scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter and Jontarius Henderson added eight points to lead a Laurel lineup that all chipped in points, from top to bottom.
Coach Marcus Price did his usual system of substitutions — five in and five out — to keep fresh legs on the floor. The Tornadoes fell behind early, trailing 15-11 after the first quarter. But they didn’t panic — just like they didn’t panic when they started the season 0-5, with losses to the likes of Forest Hill, McGill-Toolen in Mobile and Moss Point.
“We play as tough a schedule as possible early and that toughens us up for (region),” Price said.
That approach has worked, too, as the Tornadoes are 3-0 in region play.
Jared Naylor scored eight of his team-high 11 points in the first half and Cedric Bender chipped in seven for the Mustangs (8-11, 1-2). The visitors were leading until about midway through the second quarter, when the home team started its relentless trapping and pressing.
That turned what had been a six-point deficit to a 25-24 lead at the half, and the intensity continued in the second half. The Tornadoes led 43-33 after three and finished even stronger, outscoring their rival 20-12 in the fourth period.
“We just do what we do and allow the system to work,” Price said.
Part of that system is building leads so that younger players get more time, and then they become veterans who continue to build the program.
Price was proud of his guys for the victory.
“This is the best team West Jones has had in a while,” he said. “Their coach (Todd Arnold) is doing a good job.”
(G) West Jones 84
Jurnee McLaurin poured in 26 points, and Brianna Carr and Brikayla Gray scored 22 each as the Lady Mustangs (18-0, 3-0) remained undefeated. Mia Moore chipped in nine points for the Lady Mustangs, who led 40-15 at the half.
Kristian Edwards led Laurel (9-8, 1-2) with 11 points while India Singleton and Zoey Cooley contributed eight and seven, respectively.
Next up for Laurel is another tough region rival, South Jones, on Friday night.
West will host region rival Wayne County (8-9, 0-3) next Friday.
Tipoff for both girls’ games is at 6 p.m.
(G) South Jones 53
Wayne County 49
The senior duo of Jordan Clark and Kelsi Jackson scored 31 points to lead the Lady Braves (16-3, 2-1) to their second consecutive region win. Clark had 16 points and Jackson had 15 points, six steals and five assists for South, which started the season 14-0 then lost three straight to top-tier opponents — Holmes County Central, Hattiesburg and West Jones.
The Lady Braves beat Laurel in overtime, 66-62, last week. Jackson scored 17, Clark had 16 (8 assists, 5 steals), Eboni Fulford scored 13 and eighth-grader Jernize Gammage had 12 points and 20 rebounds in the victory.
(B) Wayne County 59
South Jones 49
The War Eagles (11-8, 2-1) used a 21-point second quarter to break an 8-8 tie and take the region victory over the Braves (3-13, 0-3) on Friday night.
The South squads go to Hattiesburg tonight (Tuesday) then resume their region schedule at rival Laurel on Friday night. The girls tip off at 6 followed by the boys’ games in both matchups.