For the Petal Panthers, there was good and bad Tuesday night in their much-anticipated region-opener against Meridian. Defensively, the Panthers limited the Wildcats to just 35 points. On the offensive end, though, Petal struggled to find a rhythm and scored their fewest points in a game since 2015.
The Panthers struck first in the opening minutes off a made basket from Treylan Smith, but that lead was short-lived. Meridian answered with a 14-0 scoring run that stretched into the second quarter. Though Petal fought back to make it a competitive game, the Panthers never led again and fell short against the Wildcats, 34-27.
Meridian improved to 13-2 this season and 20-0 all-time versus Petal with the win.
“You hold them to 30-something points, and if you would’ve told me that before the game started, I would say we win that one,” Petal coach Todd Kimble said. “But when you can’t execute on the offensive end, it doesn’t matter much what you do on defense.
“I just felt that tonight was our chance to win, and we didn’t. Almost all of it, but you gotta play a whole game. We played on one end and not on the other.”
After scoring just two points the first 11 minutes of the game, Petal closed Tuesday’s second quarter on a 7-2 scoring run, trailing Meridian 16-11 at the half.
The Panthers pulled to within two points three separate times the rest of the way, including with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter off a three-pointer from Don Avila. The Wildcats answered with an 8-2 run to pull away and pick up the win.
Smith finished with eight points to lead the Panthers, who fell to 13-2 with the loss.
“It’s like with this team we’re putting little pieces together at a time,” Kimble said. “One of the things we were really bad at the last probably six games was our rebounding, and I thought we did a really good job of that tonight. We fixed that part. But offensively, when you can get away with doing things half way and you gotta do them full speed, it’ll bite you, and we got bit tonight because of it.”
Now for Kimble and the Panthers, the focus shifts to another big home game Friday against rival Oak Grove, who opened district play Tuesday with a win over George County.
“We gotta get past this one because if we don’t, we’re gonna get beat by Oak Grove because of this one.”