PORTAGEVILLE - Willie Hassell scored a game-high 27 points and led the state-ranked Portageville Bulldogs (9-1) to a 74-45 win over the North Pemiscot Mustangs Thursday night.
The win put the Bulldogs back on the winning track after a tough loss to Dexter in the Bloomfield Christmas tournament.
It has become almost routine for Portageville to get off to a slow start in its games and this contest was no different.
A very determined and prepared Mustang starting five jumped off to a 4-0 lead and trailed by only a point at 17-16 at the end of the period.
Hassell erased the Mustang early lead with eight straight points of his own, then put the 'Dogs back on top as time expired in the stanza.
North Pemiscot had six players to score in the period led by Brandon Massey's five points.
Jordan Penn and Antonio Scott tallied nine apiece for Portageville in the contest.
The Mustangs were led in scoring by Odale Clifton who had a dozen and was the only South Pem player to score in double digits.
"I don't know if we came out flat or if North Pem just came out really ready to play. They were quicker than us and knew what they were doing and we were kind of standing around. It's the same old story for us," said Bulldog coach Jim Bidewell. "If we could skip the first quarter, we would do better."
In the second stanza, the Portageville quickness and depth began to take its toll on the Mustangs as they began to foul. They sent the Bulldogs to the charity stripe five times where they canned 8-of-10 attempts to account for half their 16 points in the frame.
North Pemiscot had a tough time running its offense, scoring only six and found themselves in a 33-22 hole at halftime.
Fatigue really set in on the visiting Mustangs in the second half as Portageville outscored them 41-23 to put the game out reach.
The junior Bulldogs spanked the Mustangs 54-15 in the jayvee contest.
The Bulldogs will have their mettle tested starting tonight against a feisty Scott Central squad. They will then take to the road Tuesday night against Caruthersville and Thursday night against Dexter before coming home to take on the South Pemiscot Bulldogs.