By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – The Ripley Lady Tigers are no strangers to the post season after advancing to the Class 3A state title game for the past two seasons, winning it all in 2011.
Monday night, at the RHS Event Center, the team that has been ranked among the state’s best girls’ teams the entire season began what they hope could be a third straight journey to Jackson.
Becca Ruckes recorded her 12th double double of the season – 21 points and 15 rebounds – and leading scorer Jayla Chills added 20 points to help the No. 2 seeded Lady Tigers cruise to an 85-48 victory over No. 3 Byhalia in opening round of the North state tournament.
Fifth-year Ripley coach Katie Bates said that despite the past success, this year’s team is still looking to blaze its own path.
“We’re excited about our past success and to be in position to build on that, but this team is looking for its own identity as well,” said Bates, who has guided the team to four straight 20-win seasons. “This team has done a good job of filling big shoes and we still want to be Ripley, but we talked about establishing our own thing.”
Against Byhalia, the Lady Tigers (25-4) established themselves early and often. They led by just one bucket mid-way through the first quarter before closing with a 13-4 run to lead 23-13 after one.
The Lady Tigers started the second quarter with a 20-6 run to lead 43-19 on a Matavia Cox jumper with 2:52 remaining until halftime. Cox finished with 16 points.
Shandricka Sessons led Byhalia with 17 points.
The Lady Tigers will face Cleveland East Side on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Belmont, the host site for the remainder of the Class 3A North tournament.