By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
NEW SITE – Never accuse the New Site Lady Royals from not accepting a challenge.
In the Lady Royal Rumble on Saturday, New Site accepted the challenge but could not faze the state’s top-ranked Horn Lake Lady Eagles, falling 51-40.
“I thought we defended well, holding them to 51 points,” said New Site head coach Byron Sparks, with Horn Lake coming into the contest averaging 69.8 per game. “And our offense executed well, the shots just didn’t go down.”
New Site (8-3) set the pace of play in a patient manner, which Horn Lake (11-0) seemed perfectly content to accept.
The Lady Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the Clarion Ledger Super 10, moved to an early 11-4 lead with 6-foot-3 Alexyse Thomas getting two field goals. But New Site stayed patient, with a pair of Shelby Stricklen baskets pulling the Lady Royals within 15-13 by the end of the period.
The contest was still tight midway through the second quarter, with Stricklen hitting a 3-pointer to pull New Site within 22-20. There, Horn Lake went on an 8-0 run, with a Treasure Evans basket giving the visitors a 30-20 lead.
With a nine-point advantage at the half, Horn Lake extended that margin to 40-21 by dominating the first six minutes of the third quarter.
“New Site is well-coached with quality players, and it was a tough matchup for us at times,” Horn Lake head coach Janna Thompson said. “We do like to run a little bit more than we did tonight, but tonight’s pace is nothing we were unfamiliar with.
“I think nine of our previous 10 games we ran up against a game plan like this.”
Still maintaining a patient game, the Lady Royals did respond and significantly dented the Horn Lake advantage.
Faith Mitchell and Marlee Taylor hit 3-pointers to end the period, and a Christin Pharr three-point play in the fourth quarter pulled New Site within 44-36 with 5 minutes, 13 seconds left. But that was as close as the Lady Eagles would allow the contest to get.
“Really in that third quarter, we got good looks, but couldn’t get the shots to fall,” Sparks said. I told the kids we were not going to play anybody else that good, and that I would take that same effort the rest of the year.
“We’re going to play up as much as we can to get ready for February and March.”
Evans and Cunningham led the Horn Lake offense with nine points each, while Pharr was tops for New Site with 14.
New Site will play three games in Florida after Christmas, then start off January with games against Itawamba AHS and Oxford.
(G) Pontotoc 73, Red Bay (Ala.) 29: Pontotoc’s Marlee Hatcher hit 10 3-pointers and scored 33 points to help in the victory against previously undefeated Red Bay.
Pontotoc (11-1) led 44-11 at the half, with Kayla Russell adding 18.