Skip to main content

Forrest County runs win streak to 24 games with 66-38 playoff win over Mendenhall

The Aggies will host 4A powerhouse Lanier in the second round Saturday
  • Author:
  • Updated:

BROOKLYN – The outcome was never in doubt, as Forrest County AHS won the first of what the Aggies hope is a five-game run to a state championship.

FCAHS, the state’s No. 4 team in the SB Live Class 4A rankings, demolished Mendenhall 66-38 in the opening round of the MHSAA State Tournament Tuesday night at Ellis Shoemake Gymnasium.

MORE: MHSAA Tuesday night Playoff scoreboard

The Aggies, now 25-2 overall, watched their winning streak climb to 24 games, advancing to the second round at 6 p.m. Saturday, hosting Lanier. Second-round winners advance to the Elite Eight regional at Pearl River Community College next week. Mendenhall finished 6-15.

“It’s never easy to win in the playoffs,” said FCAHS coach Scott Landry. “We pride ourselves on our defense, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the first round or the third round. As long as we can sit down and guard, and be connected defensively, we like our chances.”

As has been their pattern lately, the Aggies came storming out of the locker room for the start of the game, and quickly took away any notion that this would be a competitive contest.

Forrest County scored the first eight points of the game, gave the Tigers a pair of layups – which prompted a quick 30-second time out – then put the pedal to the metal.

The Aggies reeled off 21 unanswered points to lead 29-5 midway through the second quarter, allowing Landry to make liberal use of his bench the rest of the game.

“I thought we had good preparation this week, and during our walkthrough,” said Aggie senior Kailor Harper. “Like our coach says, it’s all about preparation and what you do to get on the right side of the game. We were just ready to play.”

Senior Richard Frazier got Forrest County going with a drive down the lane for a layup, then got a putback after a missed shot. Senior Ronald Thompson off the bench swished a 3-point shot from the right wing to put the Aggies up by double-digits – for good.

Senior David Cumbest Jr. ended the first quarter with a drive down the baseline for a reverse layup, ending the period with a 17-4 lead.

Thompson opened the second quarter with a 3-ball, Cumbest hit two foul shots, then Frazier brought the house down with a steal in the backcourt and fast-break slam.

Senior Josh McArthur hit another trey and Harper capped the run with a fast-break layup. Forrest County led 35-9 at halftime.

“Coach tells us not to be selfish with the ball,” said Frazier. “Get our other guys in the game, work the ball to them, and get our bench involved in the game.”

While the Aggies were shooting a healthy 37.5 percent (12 of 32) from the field in the first half, they held the Tigers to just 14 shots, and the only two made baskets were the back-to-back shots at the start.

“I like playing defense, moving around, being active in the backcourt,” said Frazier, who had several steals in the backcourt at key moments. “Coach knows I can do that, so he lets me be free back there to make steals and be disruptive.”

Mendenhall also committed twice as many turnovers as it had made shots for the game, 24 turnovers to 12 field goals.

“It’s important to jump on teams early,” Landry said. “We feel like if we can set the tone defensively, get in the passing lanes and take a couple of charges early, once we get stops and getting rebounds, then we get out in transition and run a little bit.

The Tigers rallied in the second half and made a game of it, although most of the second half was played with the Aggie starters on the bench.

Mendenhall converted 6 of 10 shots in the third quarter, and finally hit double figures in points at the 5:46 mark of the period.

The Aggies also did good job of getting to the foul line and making free throws. FCAHS was 21 of 31 from the line, including 15 of 23 in the second half.

“We’re trying to shoot more free throws in practice,” Landry said. “Because when you’re out there with the game on the line, you want someone who step to the line and make two big free throws.

“And getting to the line is something we do a good job at. We actually have more made free throws this season than our opponents have attempts.”

Harper led the Aggies with 12 points, sophomore Davion Cumbest had 11 points, David Cumbest and Frazier both finished with 10 points. Sophomore Marc Jenkins had 12 points and sophomore Montavis Hobbs added 10 points for Mendenhall.

“Kailor’s definitely picked up his game up,” said Landry. “He’s high character. He’s the first one in the gym and he last one to leave. We’re very lucky to have him.

“He’s starting to put some things together, because he can do multiple things. He can shoot it a little bit, he can handle (the ball) a little bit, go in and get rebounds, and he’s extremely coachable.”

Harper’s play in recent weeks has been especially needed in the absence of starting guard Jason Jefferson, who is out with a foot injury.

“Jason is a big part of our team,” said Harper. “He does all the dirty stuff for us. He gets on the floor for loose balls, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, taking charges and he does a good job scoring those trash points inside.

“I feel like it’s my duty to the team – and to him – to make that run for him to pick up my game and play like he does.”

Landry said the Aggies might get Jefferson back if they get to the Final Four in Jackson in two weeks, but he isn’t counting on it.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Landry. “We’re not going to say no, but it doesn’t look good for getting him back before the end of the season.”

Lanier (17-14) will bring a team that is having an average season by its standards, but the Bulldogs have tons of tradition on their side. Lanier defeated Moss Point in its first-round game 62-53.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” said Landry. “The further you go, the better the teams you’re playing.

“Lanier has a great basketball tradition. They’ve got what we want, state championships, and a lot of them. They take a lot of pride in basketball. So, it’s going to be a heck of a challenge.”