by Hunter Dawkins
After coming out of a three year retirement and beginning the 2019 at a 5-12 record before district play, Pass Christian Boys Head Basketball Coach Wayne “Buddy” Kennedy probably wouldn’t have predicted the turnaround nor hosting the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association 4A Playoffs. The Pirates (15-14) rallied from a twelve point deficit against the North Pike Jaguars to survive and advance with a 59-51 victory.
“We knew they were way better than their record indicated,” said Kennedy. “I told the boys at halftime that we beat them everywhere except the scoreboard, but we didn’t score enough points because of missed shots or free throws.”
As the North Pike Jaguars entered the gym, top Division I recruit Alijah Martin immediately scored early with four field goals and a 15-13 first period lead over the Pirates. The Jaguars Senior Guard Martin knocked down a three-point play followed by a basket beyond the arc where the Pirates called a timeout with 3:41 left in the half and behind 23-17.
Fortunately for Pass Christian, Martin got into foul trouble and only scored five more points in the game, although the halftime score was 26-22, North Pike lead.
Offensively, the Pirates struggled to open the third period, as Pass Christian called a timeout to regroup with the Jaguars holding a 37-25 lead. Pass Christian Senior Guard Kobe Hathorn and the Pirates defense took back the game by going on 10-0 run to end the period being down 37-35.
“We’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time of getting shots in the lane during practice,” expressed Kennedy. “That seems to be our Achilles’ heel, but things worked out for us as the game went on.”
The Jaguars faced the tough Pirates man press defense, which provided multiple turnovers and contested buckets for Pass Christian. The Pirates finished with a 24-14 run during the final period and easily earned their first round victory.
“We’re struggling running some set plays on offense, but I thought our defense has really carried us.”
In finishing runner-up at the District 8-4A Tournament last week at Moss Point, Kennedy was named District Coach of the Year. “I am certainly happy here and was excited at the way our kids played tonight.”
Hathorn was the lead scorer on the floor with 21 points while Pass Christian players Andrew Moffett and Xavian Chamberlain finished with 12 points each.
Monday evening, the Pass Christian Lady Pirates finished their season at 15-11 after dropping a first round MHSAA 4A playoff game against South Pike. Last week, they lost to Moss Point 38-30 in the district championship. Pass Christian Lady Pirates Basketball Coach Greta Ainsworth was named District Coach of the Year.
The boys play in the second round of the MHSAA 4A playoffs Saturday evening at 6pm in Florence.