RULEVILLE – The Ruleville Central Tigers didn’t play their best game here Tuesday against the M.S. Palmer Dragons, but they did what they needed to do and pulled out a 55-44 win in the first round of the 3A State Boys Basketball Playoffs.
“I thank God,” Tigers head coach Marlon Dorsey said. “We have played better defense, but tonight the one thing we did do well was rebound the basketball. Our seniors Pierre Pruitt and Artavius Clark played well for us down there against some really big and athletic players for them.”
The Tigers (21-9) ended the first quarter trailing 11-10. In the second quarter, Ruleville came out with pressure defense and forced Palmer into turning the ball over. With the turnovers, Ruleville was able to get easy fast break layups and opened the period with an 8-0 run and an 18-11 lead.
The Tigers went into the locker room on top 27-20.
In the third quarter, the Tigers stretched their lead to 35-27 with under two minutes remaining in the period. Palmer answered Ruleville’s run with a three-point basket and a layup from Thaddeus Sacks, Jr. at the end of the quarter to close the gap to 35-32.
Pruitt put the momentum back in Ruleville’s favor as he scored the first two baskets to start the final quarter and give the Tigers a 39-32 advantage.
Ruleville’s Michael Harris went to the bench in the third quarter with foul trouble and was scoreless. All nine of his points came in the final period as he helped the Tigers increase and keep their lead as they secured the victory.
With the Tigers advancing into the second round of the playoffs, Dorsey said it is important for the team to remain focused.
"We are searching and that keeps us hungry. They want the chance to experience something they never have and I think the seniors have led the team thus far and I think going forward we can only get better," said Dorsey.
Joseph Perez led the Tigers with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Clark added 12 points and 12 rebounds, Pruitt scored nine points with nine rebounds and Harris added his nine points with six assists to aid Ruleville.
The Tigers will be back in action at 7 p.m. Saturday against Nettleton at Ruleville.