AMORY – The Amory Panthers had an early lead and kept it close until the end against Baldwyn before the visitors secured the 53-47 win at the free-throw line last Tuesday night.

“We got off to a good start, were able to execute some things and get some different guys going early,” Amory coach Brian Pearson said. “Just for whatever reason, we couldn’t find those things in the second half. We couldn’t find an easy bucket or them messing up anything defensively. That’s a credit to them and the reason why they expect to win every night they step on the floor.”

The Panthers and the Bearcats went back and forth in the first quarter. Back-to-back threes by Drew Keeton and Isaiah Thompson and a layup from Malik White started out the game with an 8-0 Amory lead, but Baldwyn stormed back to tie it up with three minutes left in the first and pulled ahead just a few seconds later.

Thompson hit another three and added a pair of free throws to get the Panthers back to within two at 18-16 at the end of the first.

Keeton scored first in the second to tie the game before another Baldwyn three from Logan Potts pushed the Bearcats back ahead. Thompson answered for Amory with a three-point play, and Shaidon McKinney drained a three-pointer seconds later to give the Panthers their first lead of the quarter. The two teams traded baskets to end the first half with Charleston Wallace and Thompson scoring for the Panthers to put them up by two at 28-26 at the half.

Baldwyn came out hot in the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run led by Riley Hoard to take a 36-28 lead. James Spratt finally broke the drought for Amory with 4:25 left in the quarter with a three-point play to cut it to 36-31.

Hoard continued the hot hand in the third for the Bearcats, scoring six more points late in the quarter to give them a 42-37 advantage. Spratt had two more baskets to finish out the quarter, and Thompson added another to keep it close.

Hoard opened the fourth with another easy layup, but McKinney answered him with a putback. Treshon Hadley got open for a layup to cut it to three before a quick 4-0 Baldwyn run made it 48-41 with just under a minute to go.

Thompson put in a three-point play to cut it to four, and Wallace did the same with a trey with three seconds to go, but the Bearcats secured the win by going 5 for 6 at the line in the closing seconds.

“We just missed a chance to make a play here and there and execute some things, and it just didn’t go our way,” Pearson said. “In a tight game like that, you can’t miss free throws. They got the ball where they wanted to, and we didn’t do a good job defending it.”

Hoard led all scorers with 21 points, and Potts added 14 for Baldwyn. Thompson led the way for Amory with 20 points.

(G) Baldwyn 54, Amory 44

The Lady Panthers got off to a tough start, trailing 20-2 at the end of the first with Amory’s only points coming from Jhalia Small.

Amory had more success in the second quarter, scoring 15 points with nine of that coming from Small, but the Lady Bearcats matched them and led 35-17 at the half.

Baldwyn scored first coming out of the break, but Amaya Trimble answered with a three that sparked an 8-0 run to pull to within 12 at 37-25. The Lady Panthers ended the third with back-to-back buckets from Jatavia Smith and Kimiya Parks to trail 40-29 going into the final quarter.

Baldwyn opened the fourth with back-to-back baskets before Small could answer with two of her own, and Emma Kate Wright drained a three to get the lead to within single digits at 44-36. The Lady Bearcats went back up by 12 before layups by Small and Parks and a steal and basket on the inbounds pass by Smith got it to six points at 49-43. Baldwyn went to the line to secure their win, ending the game by outscoring Amory 5-1.

“We had a nightmare of a start and came out flat, and against good teams, you can’t have that,” Pearson said. “I told them I was proud of their effort and fight, and I can work with a group like that.”

Small led all scorers with her 22 points.

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