SP Lady Tigers
By Brad Greer
South Panola girls head basketball coach Ralph Stallings had a feeling his team’s matchup against undefeated H.W. Byers would be intense and physical. He just did not know how his Lady Tigers would react to it and stand up to the challenge.
Stallings found out early that the Lions were just too quick for his club as Byers used a ball-hawking defense to force six Lady Tiger turnovers in the opening two minutes of the game as No. 1 ranked 2A Byers raced out to a 8-0 lead then held on for a 60-53 victory over South Panola in the Northwest Mississippi Classic Expo at Senatobia Friday afternoon.
The Lady Tigers did not rebound Saturday as they fell to former district foe Horn Lake 58-47.
“We came out in the first half a little nervous and we let their record get inside our heads and it took us until the second quarter to settle down,” said Stallings.
“We played better ball in the second half and cut the lead to two points, but we just could not finish. We played good for three and-a- half quarters and took a half quarter off and that cost us right there.”
Byers, who was led by the guard duo of Rachel and Amanda Jones, took a 15-10 lead after the first quarter. Simone Ryan canned a three-pointer to give the Lions a 13-5 lead at the 3:30 mark of the first period.
South Panola settled down in the second period as Sabrina Townsend hit a jumper for two of her 10 points on the day to make the score 17-12. The Lions quickly rebounded to go on a 14-2 spurt to take a 31-14 lead as Amanda Jones converted one of 15 first half Tiger turnovers into a layup . Kourtney Coleman then followed that by draining a three-pointer with at the 3:30 mark of the first half.
South Panola (11-4) cut the Lion lead to 36-26 at halftime on Townsend’s nine second-quarter points as the Tigers shot 9-of-24 from the floor in the first half. Byers meanwhile connected on 15 of their 30 shots. For the game, the Tigers shot 23-of-50 for 46 percent while the Lions hit 23-for-48 for 47 percent.
South Panola got back into the game by cutting the Lion lead to 45-41 late in the third period on a Skylar Barnes driving layup. The Tigers then later closed the game to a basket at 47-45 on a Stalisha Draper put back of an Essie Thomas missed shot with 5:00 minutes left in the game.
But Rachel Jones was too much for the Tigers to overcome as the senior scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half, including a huge basket with 1:06 left to give the Lions a 57-53 lead. Jones then hit three of four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Amanda Jones led Byers (16-0) with 18 points and Ryan added 11 in the winning effort. Vetorra Cole scored 14 of her team- leading 16 points in the second half to lead the Tigers in scoring. Barnes followed with nine while Draper added eight and Thomas accounted for six. Monteith Brewer rounded out the scoring with four points.
The win put Byers into the championship game Saturday night where they lost to the No. 1 ranked team in class 1A Coldwater, 55-48.
Against Horn Lake, South Panola tied the score at 21 in the third quarter and pulled within one, 35-34 with 3:35 to go in the quarter. That was the closest they would get the rest of the afternoon.
The Tiger teams return to regular action tonight when they head to Columbus for district games beginning at 6 p.m.