by Hunter Dawkins

Boldly going where no other Long Beach High School Basketball team had been before, the Bearcats couldn’t rally past the Hattiesburg Tigers Tuesday night in the 5A Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Quarterfinals playoff game.  Despite closing the gap with five minutes left, the Bearcats ended their historical season 68-61 in the Long Beach Gymnasium.

“Halftime we made a couple of adjustments and I told my guys to keep playing hard,” said Long Beach Basketball Head Coach Brandon Cobb.  “Play defense, rebound hard, and the rest will come.  We fought our way back in the game with a chance to win and I’m proud of these guys.”

The Tigers began the contest with a quick-moving transition game, as Mississippi South All-Star Senior Tiger Guard Cameron Brown shot and scored the ball from different directions in the court.  Regardless of this action, Long Beach Sophomore Point Guard Anthony Robinson converted two 3-point baskets to end the first period with a 15-15 tie.

As the Long Beach shooting became cold in the second quarter, Hattiesburg’s Brown and the rest of the Tigers jumped all over this.  Hattiesburg outscored the Bearcats 25-11, including Brown’s 16 points, to go up 40-26 at the half.

The third period figured to be more of the same, even though Long Beach Sophomore Guard Khaleb Marks knocked down two 3-point baskets to slim the lead 52-42 Hattiesburg.

Finally the rally ignited the home crowd, as Hattiesburg Guard Brown received his fourth foul and left the game.  The Bearcats followed with a 13-3 run, which Hattiesburg legendary Coach Ernie Watson burned a quick timeout with just over 5 minutes left.

Brown returned, but the Bearcats had blood running through their veins and were ready to take it to the Tigers.

“We did get in a little bit of foul trouble when we began to make the run,” expressed Cobb.  “In the end, we ran out of gas and came up a little short.”

Hattiesburg took advantage of these mishaps and rode the way to Jackson for the MHSAA State Semifinals.  Long Beach (24-7, 6-0) finished with the deepest it has ever gone in the playoffs, undefeated in district play and winning the first district championship in more than a decade.

The Hattiesburg Tigers Brown led all scorers with 33 points and four 3-pointers.  Long Beach was led by Marks with 15, but Calvin Johnson and Malik Handy had 14, while Robinson finished with 13 points.

Last week, Bearcats Senior Forward Johnson signed a letter of intent to play at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Mississippi.  Additionally, Coach Cobb was named District 8-5A Coach of the Year.