The Panola College Ponies got off to the season with a good start, going 7-1 and beating three ranked opponents.
But Saturday’s game against Jacksonville was a little different in that it was the start of Region XIV basketball games.
The Ponies once again met the challenge, with six players on the short-handed team scoring in double figures on the way to a eight-point win over their coach’s former team.
The No. 13 Ponies are 8-1 for the season and 1-0 in regional play.
“We knew it was going to be hard,” Panola Coach Aaron Smith said. “It was a test and they were aiming at us because we’re ranked. We were short-handed, but the guys played their butts off. It was really, really tough and I’m really proud of them.
“After me being there for four years, I’m glad the game was here instead of there. It could have gotten out of control.”
The Ponies had to withstand several shots from the Jaguars early in the contest as the visitors managed to hold the early lead.
Panola gradually built up a 10-point lead on a Cameron Carson 3-pointer, 33-23. But the Jaguars clawed back, cutting the lead to 33-29 and finally tying it at 34-34.
Jacksonville managed to take a lead, but Kelyn Pennie drained a 3 just before the buzzer to put the Ponies up by two, 46-44.
The second half was more of the same with the home team opening up a lead and the Jacksonville team climbing back into it.
But the home team managed to keep the lead around 10 for most of the second half and took the eight-point win.
Stanton Rose led the Ponies in scoring with 17, followed by Jermaine Drewey with 15, Carson with 14, Pennie and Davian Sanders with 12 each and Aaron Gedeon with 11, Dominique Jackson with nine and Chris Coley with eight.
“Davian Sanders was phenomenal for us,” Smith said. “He got the ball to the right guys when they were open and he took it to the rim when we needed it. He did a great job today.”
Nick Gazelas did a good job for the Jags, scoring a game-high 24 and keeping them in the game.
“We went to a box-and-one on him the last 10 minutes of the game,” Smith said. “It really helped. It slowed them down and helped us make the run we needed.”