By David Wheeler | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – It was a night of firsts in a feature matchup Saturday at the Tupelo Smoothie King Classic.
The New Albany Lady Bulldogs lost their first game to a Mississippi team since 2010 and their first regular-season contest since 2009.
And in the same contest, Matt Justice picked up his first victory as Tupelo head coach as his Lady Wave defeated the Lady Bulldogs 65-51 in the season opener for both squads.
“This was a good win for the team,” Justice said. “I knew we wanted to contain Jazmine Spears as much as possible, and then put pressure on the rest of the team.”
Spears, a New Albany junior, is the lone returnee from the nine players who were on the court for the Lady Bulldogs Class 4A State Championship earlier this spring.
Tupelo contended well with the New Albany star, using a 14-0 to begin the third quarter. Freshman Jaleigha Polk had three baskets in the run, which was capped by a Faith Cook rebound and basket for a 41-23 lead.
New Albany tried to fight back, and a Spears basket early in the fourth period pulled the Lady Bulldogs within 51-41. Then Spears was whistled for her fifth foul with 6 minutes, 16 seconds to play.
A layup by Erin Carter pulled New Albany within 51-45 with 4:33 left, but Tupelo senior guard Antoinette Riddle scored six points down the stretch to help secure the win for the Lady Wave.
“We had some girls out there who had never played before,” New Albany coach John Stroud said. “We’ve just got to find out who can play.”
Riddle paced the Tupelo offense with 23 points, while Spears managed 21 points and 18 rebounds.
(B) DeSoto Central 75, Tupelo 72
The Golden Wave were never able to overcome a first quarter deficit, trailing 35-29 at the half, and 51-46 after the third quarter.
Nathan Turner paced DeSoto Central with 17, while Rashon Coleman and Jordan Sadler each scored 15 to lead Tupelo.