Forty-nine years was worth the wait. Hattiesburg stood strong late in this game to win 55-50. Stephen McCullon was the MVP.
With 4:21 left in the third quarter, Picayune got their first lead. The score was 30-29. A game that seemed to be all in Hattiesburg’s favor started to hit a shift.
Picayune kept the fire coming in the fourth quarter. Their team had found a new set of legs. They put on a full court press that was giving Hattiesburg a lot of trouble.
But not so fast, my friend. With four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hattiesburg was back within one point. The score was 42-41. A foul with 2:24 left in the game would send Hattiesburg to the free throw line. Stephen McCullon went to the line and sank both free throws. Hattiesburg was back in the lead by one point. This game was getting good, and the Big House was going crazy.
“First I wanna give honor to God,” said Coach Ernie Watson. “Next my wife. She passed away ten years ago. She told me this is where I’m going to get my gold ball from. So how does it feel? It feels tremendous. I’ve been here nineteen times and walked away with nothing but second place. I love this group of young men. They did an outstanding job getting here and they did what they had to do.”
Darrian Johnson was back in the game and he was ready to hang out on the block. He rejected a layup that would have given Picayune the lead again. He wasn’t having that.
Hattiesburg would close out the fourth quarter very well. Darrian Johnson had the crowd going wild with his last two points of the game. It was time for Hattiesburg to party hard.
They would finish off the game with a victory. The gold ball was headed to the Burg.
“We came out nonchalant after the second half. I told them they were going to punch in the mouth and they didn’t believe me. We thought we had them for a blowout. We came out, threw the ball away and had three turnovers in a row and it was shocking to them. When they start listening to me they do better. I just told them they got to turn their defense up, do what they did to you, and that’s what they did.”