The Clarksville Panthers hit six three-pointers as they defeated the Mills Comets 58-40 in the first round of the 5A boys state tournament at Pine Bluff Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have been in this situation the last two years,” Clarksville head coach Tony Davis said. “The first game is always the big one. You got the nerves and everything coming into play.
“To step out and did what we did tonight was huge.”
By the end of the third quarter, Clarksville had a 30-point lead, which enforced the mercy rule. The Panthers outscored the Comets 14-6 in the third quarter, including eight points from senior Deven Simms.
Leading 41-22 with 7:18 left, Simms hit a shot in the paint and later scored off an offensive rebound and tip-in to give Clarksville a 22-point lead.
With 3:02 left in the third quarter, Simms grabbed another rebound and was fouled on the putback. He made both free throws to give the Panthers a 48-23 lead.
A rebound and basket by Sims again increased their lead to 51-23.
Simms finished the game with 13 points including 3 of 3 from the free throw line.
“He’s kind of our motor guy,” Davis said. “We are able to sit down and pressure, knowing he is going to pull down rebounds for us.
“It makes us better defensively.”
In the second quarter, Clarksville hit three three-pointers including two from junior Kenderick Lee.
“That is a big part of our offense,” Davis said. “Last year, here in the state tournament, we went 0 for 23 in the first half of the first two games.
“We were pretty relieved to come out and shoot the ball the way we did.”
Clarksville won the 4A state title the last two seasons before moving up to 5A this year. Last year’s 4A tournament was held at the Pine Bluff Convention Center as well.
An 11-0 run midway through the second quarter gave Clarksville a 37-16 lead.
“In the second and third quarters, we really made them work for a lot of things,” Davis said. “We set the tone early today. We rebounded well and defended well.
“We know if we want to make a run at this, that is very important.”
Clarksville’s only basket in the fourth was a three-pointer from Aaron Ashlock as Davis had put in the reserves at the beginning of the quarter.
Jerren Thompson scored 13 points and Kenderick Lee and Dederick Lee scored 10 points each. Freddy Lee had nine points, all in the first quarter.
Kaylon Tappin led Mills with 16 points.
Clarksville will play the winner of Forrest City and Magnolia on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
“Both are well-coached teams,” Davis said. “We know we’ve got to bring it and we know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”