Houlka Wildcats face tall task in 4-1A finals tonight

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

MABEN – The rims in West Oktibbeha’s H.D. Morgan Gym are little too sturdy for Houlka coach Jimmy Guy McDonald’s liking.
“We don’t shoot very well in here,” said the Hall of Fame coach. “I don’t know what it is. I know these rims are pretty darn tight, but we did get enough shots down to win.”
McDonald’s Wildcats defeated Tremont 58-35 Thursday night in the semifinals of the Division 4-1A tournament.
Houlka (20-7) earned the right to play tournament host West Oktibbeha (22-7), the state’s No. 3-ranked 1A team, in tonight’s championship game. Both schools have already locked up home games for next Tuesday’s opening round of the North state boys tournament.
“It’s going to be tough playing West Oktibbeha in their gym,” McDonald said, then smiled.
The Timberwolves beat Houlka 71-48 Jan. 24 on this same floor.
Kyndrell Atkinson scored 19 points and Dante Turner added 11 for the Wildcats in their win over the Eagles.
Tremont, which has qualified for the North state tournament for the first time in 35 seasons, will play Vardaman in tonight’s consolation round for next week’s No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.
Dustyn Carpenter, who scored 11 points, was the lone Tremont player to record double figures. Houlka’s Turner had the job of guarding him.
“He did a good job on 22 (Carpenter),” McDonald said. “I was proud of our team defense. We shut them down to win.
“Offensively, we didn’t shoot well at all, but we did crash the boards and score.”
Houlka took a 12-4 lead in the first half, then pushed it to 28-16 at halftime, holding Tremont to just three field goals.
“We put up way too many 3s,” Tremont coach Brady Ramey said. “We didn’t post up inside. We didn’t work very hard. We stunk it up tonight.
“If you had told me before the game that we’d hold them to 58 points, I would have thought we’d had an opportunity to win it.”
Carpenter and Cole Glass sank 3-pointers early in the third quarter for the Eagles, but they couldn’t keep pace with the Wildcats.
(G) Tremont 51, West Oktibbeha 47: Emalee Yielding sank a crucial layup and connected on two free throws in the final minute to lead the Lady Eagles.
Yielding finished with 19 points for Tremont, which plays Houlka, a 37-22 winner over Vardaman, in tonight’s title game. Vardaman and West Oktibbeha play in the consolation game.
gene.phelps@journalinc.com