BELMONT – The Ripley Lady Tigers are as athletic, and can perform as comfortably in an up-tempo game as any team in Northeast Mississippi.
In an early season matchup of Division 1-3A leaders, that quick pace played right into the hands of the Belmont Lady Cardinals.
Belmont took control of the tempo in the contest, and the division, with an 87-69 victory Friday over the Lady Tigers.
“I told my kids this was an important game, and that you’ve got to win these division games at home,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said. “We kept the pressure on them for four quarters, and not only that, but attacked them when we had the ball.”
Belmont (7-1, 4-0) dictated the pace in various ways.
In the first quarter, it was non-stop, full-court activity. A 13-2 run in the first quarter high-lighted the fast play as Anna Brooke Page and Angelia Allen had two baskets each, pushing the Lady Cardinals to a 26-11 lead by the end of that run.
The Lady Tigers (5-3, 3-1) never recovered, though their willingness to keep the game at quick pace never let up.
Ripley pressed the rest of the way, while Belmont backed off its full-court pressure, but kept the intensity up by attacking in its half-court sets.
“A lot of our offense comes from our defense,” said disappointed Ripley coach Katie Bates. “We were never able to settle into a good flow, partly because of what Belmont was doing, and partly because of foul trouble.
“They got 38 points from the free throw line. We’re a very physical team, and I do understand that, but foul trouble played a big part.”
With Belmont attacking the paint when it had the basketball, the lead surged to 19 points in the second quarter; and 22 points in the third quarter.
“We wanted to stop their inside game, and we did well with that,” Higginbottom said. “It was a total team effort.”
The Lady Cardinals’ effort showed up offensively with inside-outside efforts of Page and Zoe Hammock. From the post, Page tossed in a game-high 32 points, while Hammock added 20 from her guard position.
Shunquest Howell led Ripley with 16.
“This was a big game because whoever won this was in the driver’s seat,” said Bates, who added that within the division, there is a home-and-home schedule this season. “It’s good that we get to play them twice.”
In the boys game, Acie Vance led Ripley with 20 points in a 70-59 victory. Jake Hall had a game-high 21 for Belmont.
David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal