In the words of LaRon Brumfield, “Beating anybody to get to the championship is good, but beating your crosstown rival to get there is extra special.”
Brumfield’s Oak Grove Warriors will play Meridian on Friday at 8:30pm for the Region 5-6A Championship after knocking off Petal, 47-40, in the opening round Tuesday.
“I knew both teams were gonna play hard, and I knew both teams were gonna make runs,” he said.
In the early going, it was all Oak Grove in that aspect. The Warriors opened the game on a 10-0 scoring run, but the Panthers clawed back late in the first half. Don Avila’s basket in the final seconds gave Petal a 19-18 lead at halftime.
The Panthers built on that advantage to start the third quarter, using back-to-back baskets from Caleb McGill to extend their lead to 23-18. Through three quarters, McGill had 24 points, and Petal led by two, 35-33.
But early in the fourth, McGill picked up his fourth personal foul. He was held scoreless by the Warriors in the quarter.
“We just stood in front of him and took a couple charges,” Brumfield said. “When he got that fourth foul, that was huge.”
Meanwhile, Dylan Brumfield opened the fourth with six of his team-high 17 points for Oak Grove, giving the Warriors a 39-35 lead with 6:29 left to play. After a make from Jay Barnes, that cushion was up to six points at 41-35.
But Petal was not done. The Panthers answered with a 5-0 scoring run off a three from Will Horne and a two from Avila, pulling to within one point, 41-40, with two minutes left. Unsurprisingly to Brumfield, it was gonna come down to making key plays down the stretch. His team was up to that challenge.
In the final minute, Brandon Tilley converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Warriors up by four points. Three made free throws later, Oak Grove had closed the win out with a 6-0 scoring run.
The Warriors (23-5) have now won eight of their last nine games, with the only loss in that span coming at Meridian by three points on Jan. 29. Now they get another crack at the Wildcats, and Brumfield feels good about the challenge that’s ahead of his team.
“When you get in this position, it’s a long battle. I call it 32 minutes plus tax,” he said. “We’re going to make runs, they’re going to make runs. We’re going to go at it. Their coach, he and I coach our butts off, and our teams play their butts off. At the end of the day, I hope the kids make it happen and make the plays out there, and we’ll see what team can come out on top.”
Win or lose, Oak Grove will host a playoff game next week. Petal, however, will need to beat George County in Friday’s 5:30pm consolation game in order to secure a playoff berth.