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Carson Rowland leads Pine Grove past Velma Jackson to capture MHSAA 2A State Championship (photos)

Rowland scored 23 points to earn MVP honors

JACKSON — The long 45-year drought is over.

Behind a strong second half and with the stellar play of Carson Rowland and Jamas Cox, Pine Grove held on to beat Velma Jackson 43-39 and claim the MHSAA Boys Class 2A State Championship at the Mississippi Coliseum on Friday afternoon.

It’s the Panthers (24-8) second state title in school and first since 1977.

“There was no special speech at halftime or anything. The guys knew what they had to do and went out and came through,” said Pine Grove coach Jake Walker. “I took over here seven years ago, and never thought we had an intent of winning a state championship. Then about four years ago we got these seniors, and I cannot put into words how proud I am of how hard they worked and win a state championship.”

Velma Jackson held a slim 11-8 at the end of the first quarter.

To begin the second quarter, the Falcons went on a quick 5-0 run to extend their lead to 16-8 and held a 20-14 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, Velma Jackson extended their lead out to eight points at 26-18 midway through, but Pine Grove ended the quarter on a 11-4 run to cut the Falcons lead down to one point at 30-29 heading into the fourth quarter.

To begin the fourth, the Panthers went on a 6-0 run to take a 35-30 lead.

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With Pine Grove up 39-34 with two and half minutes left, Velma Jackson went on a 5-0 run highlighted by a lay-up by Devin Jones with 1:02 left to tie the game 39-39.

Rowland made a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to give Pine Grove a 41-39 lead. He had an assist on a lay-up by Jackson Hudson to give the Panthers the 43-39 lead.

“Carson had struggled shooting free throws and it was fitting with 40 seconds left he made two free throws to give us the lead and put pressure on them,” Walker said. “That’s Carson. He wasn’t afraid of the moment and I’m so proud of him.”

Rowland finished with a game-high 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting to lead Pine Grove to earn most valuable player honors. Jamas Cox added 15 points for the Panthers.

“We did what we had to do to come back to win the game. No one expected us to be here and win it and that’s what we did,” Rowland said. “We had to be patient and take what the defense gave us. This means everything to us. We’ve been dreaming of this our whole lives and it came true.”

Devin Jones had 22 points to lead Velma Jackson, while Derick Bush added seven points for the Falcons (17-11).

“We wanted to stay solid on defense and we got called for a foul on their pick and roll and they made the free throws. It is what it is,” said Velma Jackson Chris Love. “We stopped playing team ball and giving the ball to Devin, and we missed too many shots.”

PHOTO GALLERY

(All photos by Austin Frayser)

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