SP Lady Tiger basketball
By Brad Greer
The Hancock Hawks must have felt like a side order of Waffle House hash browns against South Panola. Smothered, covered and scattered.
A ball-hawking Lady Tiger defense held Hancock to 25 percent shooting including three-of-20 in the first half in route to an easy 50-31 win in the quarterfinal round of the MHSAA/Cellularsouth State championships Friday afternoon at the Mississippi Coliseum.
South Panola (24-7) will advance to the semi-final round Thursday at 1 p.m against defending Class 5A champion Murrah (29-1), the No. 3 ranked team in the Clarion-Ledger Super 10 poll.
The game will broadcast live on WBLE 100.5 FM.
South Panola High School is helping to get student support to the game Thursday.
Due to exams, school will not be let out, but pep buses will leave the school around 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
Students need to bring $10 for a game ticket. There is no fee to ride the bus. Contact Kaye Smythe at the high school by Wednesday afternoon. Two buses are scheduled to go to Jackson.
Game vs. Hancock
From the opening tip-off, both teams missed easy shots and were visibly nervous. The Lady Tigers took an 8-5 lead at the end of the first quarter on a pair of baskets by Sabrina Townsend and Essie Thomas.
“Could you tell how nervous we were in the first period? If you had said boo, we would have passed out,” said Tiger head coach Ralph Stallings. “We didn’t come out strong. We were so uptight. These kids have never been here before. We said, ‘Hey, it’s just a ball game. Let’s just play.’“
And play they did. The Lady Tigers out scored the South runner-up Hawks 14-6 in the second quarter behind the play of Montieth Brewer and guard Vetorra Cole.
Brewer’s put back of a Chasity Kearney missed shot gave the Tigers the 18-5 lead at the 5:00 mark.
Cole led South Panola with 14 points and five assists while Kearney added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
After trailing 22-11 at intermission, Hancock opened the second half on a 7-0 run to close the gap to 22-18 with 5:35 remaining in the third period. After a time out, the Lady Tigers put the game into overdrive on back-to-back baskets by Cole.
A jumper by Townsend stretched the lead to 28-18 with 3:18 left.
Townsend, who entered the contest averaging 24 points per game, was held to 13 points, but rebounded from a four-point first half to score nine points in the final 16 minutes while dishing out five assists.
“Sabrina is just so smooth,” said Stallings. “She doesn’t really get rattled and she gets her shots off against bigger guards. She’s 5-4, but plays about 6-2,” Stallings said of Townsend, who is drawing interests from Northwest Community College.
The fourth quarter was all South Panola as Townsend hit a spot-up jumper early in the period for a 38-22 lead. Cole added a pair of free throws and a short jumper to give South Panola its largest lead of the game at 47-28 with under two minutes remaining.
Brewer added nine points in the victory while Thomas contributed with four points.
Afterwards, Stallings talked about the his team’s match up with Murrah.
“When you say girls basketball in Mississippi, Murrah is the first team you think of. We are going from playing midgets (today) to playing giants. It’s going to be like David and Goliath. We might need to bring some rocks with us and put them in our pockets,” joked Stallings.
The winner will advance to the championship round Saturday against the winner of the Brandon/Greenville-Weston game at 7 p.m.