By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – For the Ripley Lady Tigers, Tuesday was not a bad way to kick off 2011.
A nice test on the court, a nice effort, and eventually a nice win as the Lady Tigers held off the Tupelo Lady Wave 50-45.
“We really needed to be tested,” said Ripley coach Katie Bates, whose Lady Tigers have only lost to No. 1 in the state New Albany this season. “Tupelo matched up with us in all aspects, and this was the kind of game we needed to get ready for the second half of the season.”
Ripley (12-1) grabbed the early edge in the first quarter on back-to-back-to-back baskets by Anna Johnson, Shunquest Howell, and Becca Ruckes for an 8-2 lead.
The Lady Wave (8-9) were not out to be just a “test”, and a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Chy Cunningham pulled Tupelo within 28-26. But Tupelo never quite got over the hump, as Ripley pulled out to a six to seven point margin in the second half, only to have the Lady Wave creep within a possession of the lead.
Ripley led at one point in the third quarter 39-32 following a Jayla Chills basket. Then with 3 minutes, 36 seconds to play in the fourth period, Tupelo had pulled within 42-40 on free throws by Cunningham.
Tupelo was still within 48-45 with 29 seconds remaining following a free throw by Ziara Long, but a rebound and putback by India Howard iced the victory for the Lady Tigers.
“I’m tired of getting close,” Tupelo coach Stephanie Murphy said. “I want the girls to start finishing.”
Ruckes was a constant presence inside for Ripley, finishing with 15 points. Cunningham led Tupelo with 16.
“The defensive effort was there, we just didn’t convert into points like I would have liked,” Bates said.
– (B) Tupelo 87, Ripley 72: The Tupelo Golden Wave finally gained some breathing room on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, after the Ripley Tigers had played hard for three quarters.
Stringing together a pair of baskets at a time was how the Wave (14-3) finally edged away from the Tigers (8-6).
A pair of field goals Deontaye Ewing and Dajon Reno with 4:43 left gave Tupelo a 71-60 margin after the Wave were left clinging to a 61-56 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“We had to be on top of our defensive game,” said Tupelo coach Grant Pate, whose Wave have not lost to a team in Northeast Mississippi this season. “The fourth quarter was a really big quarter for us.
“We really focused to close out the game.”
Ewing paced the Wave offense with 24, with Ripley’s Acie Vance totaling 26.