Down nine points with seemingly no momentum on their side, Hattiesburg turned to Cameron Brown in the fourth quarter to provide a spark against Natchez. Without it, the Tigers’ six-game winning streak was in major jeopardy, and coach Ernie Watson made that clear during a timeout in Friday’s contest.
“I told him [Brown], ‘It’s your time. You gotta take over the game or we’re gonna be in trouble’.”
Brown, who has dazzled crowds with thunderous dunks and long-range shots this year, was the man for the job. The junior guard scored 10 straight points for the Tigers in the fourth to force overtime. Hattiesburg went on to outscore Natchez, 8-3, in the extra period, earning a 76-71 win over the Bulldogs on day two of Coca-Cola Holiday Classic.
Brown finished with 23 points for the Tigers, who will play Yazoo County on Saturday night at 7:30 pm for the tournament championship.
“I had to step up as a leader of the team and get my teammates going,” Brown said. “We had to fight through the tough times we had during the game.”
In the early going, though, it was all Hattiesburg. The Tigers raced out to a 16-6 lead in the first quarter thanks to three-pointers from Brown, Alex Jordan and Ivory Stallings. In the second, Natchez clawed their way back into it, pulling to within four points, 41-37, at the halftime break.
After a back-and-forth third quarter, Hattiesburg took a 51-48 lead into the fourth. That’s where Natchez got hot from behind the arc. The Bulldogs used a 16-4 scoring run to build a 64-55 lead midway through the quarter.
Hattiesburg answered with a run of their own off that aforementioned 10-point outburst from Brown, who gave the Tigers a 67-66 lead with 1:14 left to play.
“I feel like I can take whoever is in front of me when I get going,” he said.
After a made free throw from Chris Lewis, Hattiesburg led 68-66 with less than a minute to play, but Natchez connected on a two-point shot afterwards to tie it and send the game into overtime.
The Bulldogs hit four three-pointers in the fourth, but they were unable to sink a single trey during the extra period.
“We were getting killed on the three-point shot, and they couldn’t keep making the three-point shot,” Watson said. “If you shoot 30 or 40 percent, which they probably did tonight, it had to end sometime.”
The Tigers closed the overtime with an 8-0 scoring run to pick up the win and improve to 12-3 on the season.
“Our confidence is real high,” Brown said. “We feel like we can take anybody if our whole team gets going. We’ve been winning a lot. We’ve only lost three games, and we plan on not losing anymore.”
Nick Walker added 11 points for Hattiesburg.
Greenville Lady Hornets 54, Hattiesburg 49
After falling down by double digits early, Hattiesburg came out firing in the third quarter, taking their first lead in the period off a made basket from Melyia Grayson. Three lead changes followed, with the final coming in favor of Greenville. The Lady Hornets managed to stay slightly ahead much of the fourth in improving to 16-0 on the year.
Grayson led Hattiesburg with 24 points. Kendyl Terrell added nine points for the Lady Tigers, who fell to 11-3 with the loss. They’ll face South Jones on Saturday night at 6 pm in the third place game of the Coca-Cola Holiday Classic.