By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Three consecutive 3-point field goals in the third quarter were the key in Ripley’s 67-51 victory Tuesday against rival New Albany in a battle of defending girls state champions.
New Albany, last season’s 4A champ, pulled two within six points of last year’s 3A queen with four minutes left in the period on baskets by 2011 Daily Journal Player of the Year Jazmine Spears and freshman Anna Frances Stroud.
Ripley’s Jayla Chills, Reashia Prather, Latisha Evans countered with perimeter bombs to give the Lady Tigers a 12-point advantage. Chills, a junior guard, then hit a runner at the 2-minute mark of the quarter to push the Tigers’ lead to 14.
“We’re not a strong outside shooting team, but we do have people who can shoot,” Ripley coach Katie Bates said. “Those shots helped open the lead and took some pressure off us.”
Spears, who scored a game-high 32 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs (7-8), credited Ripley with finding the openings on the perimeter.
“We didn’t stick on their shooters,” she said. “We relaxed too much and they took advantage of it.”
Ripley (17-1) was led by Chills, who scored 31 points. Matavia Cox added 11 while 6-foot-1 post Becca Ruckes was held to seven points and fouled out.
“Ripley is so physical they wear you down and get you out of your offense,” New Albany coach John Stroud said. “We started three freshmen. We’re a young team.”
New Albany, which graduated seven of the eight players who played in last season’s state title game, also got 10 points from guard Britney Johnson.
Ripley’s lone loss was Nov. 11to Tishomingo County, 53-49, in the season’s second game. The Lady Tigers lost a 9-point lead in that one.
“This group is starting to jell and hit its stride,” Bates said. “They’re working hard to get where they need to be. All we want to do is compete.”
Ripley, ranked No. 2 in the state in 3A, opens division play Friday against Alcorn Central, then plays 5A’s No. 2 team, Oxford, on Saturday in Belmont.
“We want to see how we fair against a big-name team,” Bates said. “It’s a win-win situation for us. We’re excited about it.”
(B) New Albany 68, Ripley 58: New Albany (10-7), behind a 16 points from Daniel Drummond, rallied from an early 12-point deficit to defeat Ripley (15-4).