Photo/James Pugh

Jones County rivals split contest on the hardwood Friday night at Northeast Jones High School. South Jones remained unbeaten with a win over Northeast Jones in the girls game, while the Northeast Jones boys remained above .500 with a win over South Jones. Here’s how the night unfolded:

Girls: South Jones 53, Northeast Jones 45.

The first 14 points Friday night in The Jungle belonged to South Jones. The early lead and good start defensively proved critical later in the contest as the Lady Braves weathered a late comeback attempt by Northeast Jones to stay perfect on the season. South Jones girls improved to 10-0 with a 53-45 win over its county rivals. 

Head coach Sherri Cooley anticipated the close game.

“I expected a game like this,” said Cooley. “Northeast Jones has a good team, and they are well coached. I knew we had to be prepared to come here and battle.”

South Jones girls held Northeast Jones without a basket till the 1:09 mark in the first period. Cooley was proud of the way her girls fought defensively in the first half.

“We talked about how we need to defend [before the game],” said Cooley. “We knew we needed to stay in front of No. 5 because she’s such a great player. We also knew we needed a body on the outside to defend No. 2 because she’s a threat shooting three’s. Our plan worked in the first half.”

South Jones led 22-9 at the half.

Northeast Jones made adjustments in the second half, cutting into the once large lead held by South Jones. The Lady Tigers pulled within five points of the lead multiple times in the fourth period, but could not draw within a one-possession score. 

“They attacked us in the second half,” Cooley said. “They put us into some early foul trouble. We had to go to the bench, and that’s where we lost a little momentum. They were able to gain momentum, so we had to gut it out to the end.”

South Jones countered the lost momentum by getting aggressive in the paint.

“We started attacking more too,” said Cooley, “so we could get to the line too.”

Despite getting outscored in the second half, 36-31, South Jones held on for the win. 

Jordan Clark and Kelsi Jackson finished in double digits for South Jones. Clark, a Jones College commit, led the Lady Braves with 18 points. Jackson, who signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College a week ago, finished with 17 points. 

Gabby Bunch for Northeast Jones led all scorers with 22 points. 

Boys: Northeast Jones 71, South Jones 65. 

“Everyone knows what Fafa (Javier) Magee brings to the table,” said Northeast Jones head coach Jay Stafford Friday night. 

While Magee led Northeast Jones again in points with 20, it was the play of a few others that helped the Tigers pull off a 71-65 win over county rivals South Jones in The Jungle. 

“Once we get Jay Jones and Joi Jones going, and they score in double-digits then we’re pretty well off,” said Stafford. “We’re pretty hard to beat with those guys are going.”

Jay and Joe finished with 10 points apiece to go along with Magee’s 20-point night. Tony Barnes also finished in double digits. The senior scored 13 points, six of which came in the final quarter.

Northeast Jones trailed by a basket at the half, 35-33, but made up ground by outscoring South Jones in the third period, 15-8. 

“Every team is different,” said Stafford. “Last year we couldn’t play in the second half. But this years team is different. We play sluggish in the first half, but in the second half, we play basketball. 

“We didn’t change the game plan in the third quarter. We just came out to play basketball.”

South Jones pulled within three points late in the contest but resorted to fouling in order to stop the clock. Northeast Jones made enough free throws to stay in front.

“We put a big emphasis on free throws,” said Stafford. “We try to shoot them every day in practice. We make players make five to seven in a row before they can leave practice.”

The win keeps Northeast Jones above .500 on the season at 6-4. South Jones falls to 3-6.