By Kedrick Storey
ECRU – The Ripley Tigers lack size, but they do have one big man making big contributions.
Saturday, at the Kings of the Court Showdown at North Pontotoc High School, 6-foot-3 junior forward Isaiah Howard turned in a 28-point, 17-rebound performance to help No. 8 Ripley (14-5) beat 2A contender Calhoun City, 83-69.
With the Tigers leading 35-32 after a back-and-forth first half, Howard opened the third quarter with a low-post bucket, then followed a Marquellus Edgeston 3-pointer with his own 3-point play to give Ripley a 42-32 advantage.
Howard scored 10 of his 19 second-half points in the quarter, helping the Tigers lead 59-46 to start the fourth.
“He was huge. He’s a tough matchup,” said Ripley coach Grant Gardner. “He works in the post. He rebounds it. He can do a lot of things that give a lot of people trouble.”
When Calhoun City closed to within six points midway though the final quarter, Howard added another 3-point play and a driving layup to push the lead back to double digits at 66-55.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive like coach told us to do at halftime,” said Howard.
Calhoun City coach Darren Coffey said his team just didn’t have a lot of energy after a Friday night win over rival Bruce. He said Ripley’s transition game, combined with Howard’s play, was just too much.
“Ripley did a good job of beating us up and down the floor, and (Howard) attacked the basket on us,” Coffey said. “Our communication was weak, and he got away from us a few times.”
Ripley’s Canaan Ratliff had back-to-back makes to give Ripley a 16-13 lead after one quarter. He finished with 26 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Malik Pearson added 12 and Marquellus Edgeston 11 for Ripley.
Chakel Gates led Calhoun City (13-5) with 23 points, while Austin Burl chipped in 13.