Jones County’s hospitality doesn’t extend to the basketball court, according to Hattiesburg’s Ernie Watson. The ninth-year Tiger coach says his teams often struggle in the area.
“It’s always ugly up here,” Watson said. “Jones County just has something on us.”
Watson’s Tigers had the last laugh Thursday night, though. Despite a back-and-forth first and early second quarter with the resilient South Jones Braves, Hattiesburg improved to 2-1 on the young season with a 55-45 win in Ellisville.
South Jones took an 18-17 lead off a three-pointer from Jordan Miller in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but Hattiesburg’s Cameron Brown responded with two made three throws, and the Tigers never trailed again in the game. Counting Brown’s trip to the free throw line, Hattiesburg closed out the second quarter on a 15-6 scoring run and carried that success over into the third, building a double digit lead that lasted the majority of the second half.
“We started playing a little better and started making shots. And of course attacking the rim,” Watson said. “I felt like we could control the boards tonight, and that’s what we did. They did a good job of getting up there and getting rebounds and going back up with it. I was proud of that.”
Unsurprisingly, a talented trio of juniors led the way for Hattiesburg. Cameron Brown poured in 20 points, Chris Lewis finished with 15 and Nick Walker added seven for the Tigers.
“If those three don’t play, we’re gonna have a hard time,” Watson said. “We gotta depend on them and put all the eggs in the basket and go play.”
Led by first-year coach Brian Butler, the Braves managed to hang around and keep the game in reach in the second half. At one point in the fourth quarter, they cut the Tiger lead to six points.
“That’s a tough team,” Watson said of South Jones. “A lot of credit goes to the new coach. They’re going to be alright.”
Watson also feels good about his team in the early going. The program is coming off a trip to Jackson last season, and the expectations are for them to make it back this year.
“I love my team,” Watson said. “We just gotta get some more depth. I hope a couple of those football players come out when they get through winning that state championship. Hopefully we’ll get some then.”
Watson’s Tigers (2-1) will be back in action Saturday afternoon at home against Warren Central. South Jones (0-2) will travel to Quitman next Tuesday.