By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
HICKORY FLAT – Katie Bates didn’t have to remind her determined Ripley players about their game plan in the final seconds of Saturday’s game against powerful Southaven.
“They were focused that last timeout,” the coach said. “I knew they were going to finish it out.”
She was right. The Lady Tigers, ranked No. 1 in Northeast Mississippi by the Daily Journal, defeated the state’s No. 1-ranked Lady Chargers 48-45 in the Hickory Flat Domino’s Challenge.
Class 3A Ripley (14-4), behind 12-point scoring efforts from guard Jayla Chills and forward Jada Rich, beat a 6A Southaven team (16-2) that features three NCAA Division I signees and two juniors who are D-I prospects.
“These players bought into our game plan and executed,” said an emotional Bates. “This gives you hope for what’s to come.”
Ripley, a state finalist the last three years and state champion in 2011, begins Division 1 play on Tuesday with a home game against Kossuth.
“That was a big win, but it can’t be the highlight of our season,” Bates told her team postgame.
Ripley didn’t make any changes to play the Lady Chargers’ bigger lineup, one that features 6-foot-1 post player Jazmine Joyner. The Lady Tigers stuck with their man-to-man defense the entire 32 minutes.
Joyner, a Tennessee-Chattanooga signee, scored 18 points and blocked 13 shots to pace the Lady Chargers.
“We hardly see man-to-man in 6A,” she said. “We got frustrated; we didn’t play team ball.”
Southaven charged out to a 16-8 lead in the first quarter, but Ripley rallied behind an 8-point effort from post Daisha Colom to cut the Chargers’ lead to 22-21 at halftime.
Ripley, which trailed 37-36 entering in the fourth quarter, didn’t take the lead for keeps until the 20-second mark. Free throws by Rich and Chills provided the winning margin. Rich scored eight of her 12 in the final quarter.
Southaven guard Aliyah Miller, a Providence signee, missed a layup with 5.2 seconds remaining that would have given her team the lead. Chills grabbed the rebound.
“They just beat us; they played better than us,” said Southaven coach David Baldwin, a former West Union boys coach. “They remained composed and we didn’t.”