By Scott Rodgers

  Coach Andre Baskett’s Predators were able to advance in the playoffs, but it wasn’t easy.

As has been their M.O. in recent weeks, the Predators (19-6) were slow out of the gates. Fox Creek missed its first six shots and McBee (7-16) was able to jump out to a 10-0 lead in the first minute and a half.

Marques Sumner finally got the Predators on the board with a layup following a drive to the rim by Brandyn Quiller. It caused the crowd at Riverview Park Activities Center to erupt after an uneasy start, though the visitors were getting a lot of second looks off of offensive rebounds.

“Oh my goodness, I’m tired of doing the same thing,” Baskett said. “I guess that’s how we play, we started slow and in the second half we go crazy. It’s been the same thing all season, we’re still working to get those four quarters.”

The Predators got within three in the second quarter, but the Panthers quickly went on a run to go into the half up 10. In the third the Predators battled back to knot the game at 33 following a Quiller traditional 3-point play with 3:42 to go.

Then Sumner made a big 3-pointer to bring the gym to a frenzy. The huge momentum shift also came with a Quiller steal and a quick layup.

As strong as the Predators were in the third and for most of the fourth, the Panthers refused to go down easily.

“We stressed free throws all week, we’ve been working on box out all week and come tonight we can’t do either one, I don’t know, just a tough game,” Baskett said.

Fox Creek led by two with 24.2 seconds to go, but got a lucky break after Christian Ferguson missed an open look for three that went out of bounds.

After a few exchanges, McBee’s Rashad Reed stole an inbound pass and knocked down a long two to put the Panthers within on. McBee then fouled senior DJ Curry, who knocked down both of his free throws. McBee’s Dewaun Tedder launched up an awkward shot from beyond the arc that went off the backboard to seal the game.

“I just wanted to take my time, bend my knees and extend,” Curry said about what was going through his mind in that moment. “We just had to come back hard, attack the glass real hard, get some rebounds, penetrate get some easy looks.”

Curry led the Predators with 17 points, followed by Chris Harmon with 13 and Sumner with 10.

The Predators’ next game will come Friday at 7 p.m. against the winner of McCormick and Southside Christian. Baskett hopes his team will be able to handle the pressure a bit better next time.

“We enjoyed the crowd, but I think it got us a little nervous too,” he said. “But in the end we prevailed.”

  FC 10 10 25 14 - 59

M 18 12 10 16 - 56

  Fox Creek (19-6)—Brandyn Quiller 4 2-5 11, DJ Curry 6 5-6 17, Marques Sumner 4 0-3 10, Brandon Gladney 2 0-0 4, Darshon Broadwater 1 0-0 2, Martrell Allen 1 0-0 2, Chris Harmon 5 3-4 13. Totals 20 10-18 59.

3-pointers: Sumner (2), Quiller.

McBee (7-16)—Nyaun Pate 3 2-3 9, Rashad Reed 11 0-1 24, Christian Ferguson 3 1-2 9, Lewis Hart 3 2-3 8, Dewaun Tedder 2 2-2 6. Totals 17 7-11 56.

3-pointers: Ferguson (2), Reed (2), Pate.