LADY WAVE UPSETS HOUSTON; LADY WAVE HOLDS ON
By D.E. Wheeler
Basketball fans at Tupelo High School Tuesday still recovering from celebrating the New Year had to brace themselves for a couple of thrilling games between Tupelo and Houston.
After an average start to the season, the Tupelo Lady Wave started 1996 the right way, upsetting the Lady Hilltoppers, the No. 5 team in the Daily Journal girls poll, 50-49. Meanwhile, the No. 5 Hilltoppers lived on the edge, but benefited from a late Golden Wave mistake for a 91-86 win.
“As we get more experience, we’re playing better,” Tupelo girls coach Sammy Pulliam said. “We needed to beat a good team, and Houston is a good team.”
The Lady Wave (9-7) held its own against the Lady Hilltoppers (11-5), who led 47-44 with 1:36 to play. A little turn-around shot by LaSonya Pulliam was followed by Ashley Fields’ layup off a fast break with 58 seconds left, giving Tupelo a 48-47 lead.
Tupelo’s defense got a little too spread out on the following series, allowing a Houston layup with 46 second left for a 49-48 score. But Lawanda Gaston responded to the challenge for Tupelo, earning and draining two foul shots with 28 seconds left to put the Lady Wave up 50-49.
Houston had trouble against the Tupelo defense in the remaining seconds, failing to get a good look at the basket.
“Don’t take anything away from Tupelo, but we did not play good,” Houston girls coach Bruce Franks said. “People say that Tupelo doesn’t have that good a team this season, but we got beat.”
Neither team managed more than a five-point margin in the first half, with Houston holding a 24-23 lead at the break. The Lady Hilltoppers opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run to go up 32-25, but the Lady Wave tied the score at 36-36 by the end of the period.
Gaston opened the final period with a 3-pointer to give Tupelo its biggest lead of the game, then Houston forged ahead, gaining its 47-44 lead on a Stephanie Stanfield layup.
Gaston led Tupelo with 13 points and Fields added 11 while Aquanda Stanfield hit 13 and Shelly Mims 10 for Houston. Stanfield, who was averaging 20 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists when Houston was unbeaten, reinjured a knee and missed five minutes of play in the second half.
n Neither the Wave (8-8) nor the Hilltoppers (16-2) could afford to relax in their contest. Both teams blew leads, Tupelo a nine-point margin at the half and Houston an eight-point margin with two minutes to play.
Tupelo trailed 83-75, but two Richard Rainey baskets and a Willie Poster 3-pointer helped the Wave pull to within 85-83. Following a Darrell Ivy free throw for Houston, Poster hit two of three and John Bradley hit one of two free throws to tie the score at 86-86 with 22 seconds left.
An off-balance bank shot by Barry Ivy with 9.8 seconds left gave Houston the lead, then Tupelo blew its chance to tie by calling a timeout with none remaining, a technical foul.
Barry Ivy totaled 28, Darrell Ivy Kendrick Grice 14 each and John Ellison 10 for Houston. Poster tallied 31 and Donell Watson and Bradley added 15 each for Tupelo.