By John Wilbert / NEMS Daily Journal
RIPLEY – It’s a new year and nothing has changed at the Tippah County High School Basketball Tournament from the past couple of years.
The Ripley High girls team won its third straight county tournament championship, while the Tiger boys team claimed its 10th consecutive county title.
The two Ripley teams won their 2011 titles in dominating fashion, with the Lady Tigers (14-1) throttling Walnut, 85-39, in Saturday night’s championship game and the Tigers (11-6) dismantling Blue Mountain, 91-68, in the boys’ title game.
“We have four seniors and that has a lot to do with it,” said Katie Bates, who’s been at the helm of the Lady Tigers for four seasons now. “This is my very first group I had, so they can almost walk out there and coach this team.
“And that’s what makes us a lot different from some other teams. They really understand what we want to do offensively and defensively.”
And with Ripley being the largest school in terms of enrollment in Tippah County, the Tigers should be expected to win the county tourney every year.
Ripley’s depth on the boys team really benefited the Tigers on Saturday night. Grant Gardner, who’s in his first season as the boys head coach, wanted his team to run and use its depth to wear down the Cougars.
“I thought in the middle of the second quarter our depth really started to take a hold of them,” said the Ripley coach. “Their kids started hitting the front of the rim and we started to get some easy buckets.”
Pine Grove, in 2001, was the last boys team other than Ripley to win the Tippah tournament.
The Lady Tigers won their third straight title thanks to some hot shooting. Jayla Chills scored a game-high 20 points, while Shunquest Howell was right behind with 19.
Anna Johnson had 10 points and Mersades Carter added nine thanks to three 3-pointers.
“From the 3-point line, I think, they missed one shot in the first half,” said Walnut coach Larry Tribble, “and they took quite a few 3s. We haven’t played anybody that was that proficient from out there.”
While the Lady Tigers made six 3s in the first half en route to a 51-23 advantage by intermission, Ripley’s boys team turned a two-point lead with three minutes to go in the first quarter on Saturday night into a 10-point advantage heading into the second period.
The Tigers outscored the Cougars 44-31 in the first half, as Acie Vance tallied 12 points and Malik Pearson added 11 through the game’s first 16 minutes.
“We came in here ready to win and we’re not intimidated by Ripley,” said Blue Mountain coach David Mason. “I felt like we matched their intensity in the first half, and I was really pleased with our energy and our effort.”
n Game summaries, Page 2B