New Albany Lady Bulldogs survive wakeup call

RIPLEY – John Stroud warned his players at halftime to not overlook Ripley.
“I told them Ripley had a run in them,” he said.
Stroud’s top-ranked New Albany Lady Bulldogs watched their 16-point halftime lead evaporate in the second half Tuesday, but they held on to escape with a 62-54 road victory before a crowd of 1,400 at the Ripley Event Center.
“We quit playing,” said Stroud, whose Class 4A team improved to 5-0. “Good teams can’t do that. These girls are spoiled when it comes to winning. They get a lead and don’t understand that good teams don’t go away.
“It was a good wakeup call.”
New Albany sophomore Jazmine Spears, a preseason all-state selection, scored a game-high 24 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots. She scored 17 points in the first half and powered the Bulldogs to their 20-7 first-quarter lead.
“If we hadn’t got in such a big hole early, it might have been a different story,” Ripley coach Katie Bates said.
Bates’ Lady Tigers, now 2-1 and the state’s top-rated 3A team, used a 14-2 lead to open the fourth quarter and cut New Albany’s 13-point lead to 48-47 with 5 minutes, 14 seconds remaining.
A 3-pointer by Shunquest Howell and a jumper from the key by sophomore Jayla Chills, did the damage. Chills scored 12 points, all in the second half.
“Ripley’s a spurt team,” Stroud said. “They’re fast. They score quick baskets.”
New Albany stretched its lead to 53-47 on a layup by post player Micha Washington, who finished with 13 points and 10 boards.
However, Ripley rallied on a 3-point play by Howell and a 3-pointer by Chills to cut the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to 55-53 with 1:41 left.
Bates said her team gained its offensive momentum in the second half from its aggressive man-to-man defense.
“Our whole game is based on defensive pressure,” she said. “We were able to get some stops. We roll offensively on our defense.”
Ripley held New Albany to six field goals in the second half.
Nyambi Penson’s layup with 1:33 left pushed New Albany’s lead to 57-53. Ripley didn’t connect on another field goal while the eventual winners sank five free throws.
Becca Ruckes scored 13 points to lead Ripley, but the post player fouled out with 3:57 remaining.
The Lady Bulldogs return to action on Friday when they host defending Class 2A champion Newton and then play Briarcrest of Memphis on Saturday.
(B) New Albany 88, Ripley 76
Ripley guard Acie Vance scored 47 points, but it wasn’t enough for the host Tigers (2-2).
Tadarious Coburn scored 22 and Kareem Brown added 17 to pace New Albany (5-1).
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal