By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – Ripley coach Katie Bates’ message to her Lady Tigers before their North Mississippi Class 3A play-in game was simple: set the tone early.
At the close of the first quarter, it was clear they got the message.
Ripley, the No. 1 seed from Division 1-3A, sprinted to a 26-9 first quarter lead and never looked back, easily eliminating Winona 71-31 at the RHS Event Center.
“We wanted to come out and establish the tone early and we did that,” said Bates. “We came out with our defensive pressure and we were able to get some transition buckets. We got the ball inside with the post, the penetration and we had some girls step up and make some outside shots.
“All around its good to see your team play this well. We just hope it continues.
If the winning continues, it will continue at the RHS Event Center. Monday’s win assured Ripley (23-4) home-court advantage throughout the remainder of the North Half, with quarterfinals starting Thursday.
“We threw the idea out there last year that maybe one day we could be good enough that would could put in the bid and host the North Half,” added Bates, who last year led the Lady Tigers to the Class 3A state title game. “I don’t know if it’s a huge advantage, but you would hope it would work in your favor.
“It’s big for our program, our school, and our community. Not just for the girls and for me, but it’s big for everybody involved. In the past its been at Houston and Belmont and now its hear so hopefully the home crowd can come out.”
Ripley had four players in double figures, including Jayla Chills and Becca Ruckes who led with 15 points apiece. Shunquest Howell chipped in 11 and Tosha Graham added 10. Ruckes and Chills combined for 14 points in the second quarter and helped Ripley to a 49-14 halftime advantage.
Alexus Flowers, who came in averaging 25 points per game for Winona, the fourth seed out of 2-3A, was held to just 14 points.
“Their defensive intensity, their shooting, I mean wow,” said Winona coach Veronica Helms. “They missed one three-point shot in the first half, and we didn’t get one up. There’s not too much to say about that.”
n Game summary, Page 2B