By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
PINE GROVE – For 11 consecutive years, the Ripley Tigers had a vice-grip on the Tippah County Tournament. But not any more.
Saturday, the Blue Mountain Cougars got 26 points each from guards Jacob Girley and Ismael Ruedas to upend the Tigers 72-66 and claim their first Tippah County Tournament title since 2000.
“You teach and preach to your players that you can play with anybody – and in years past I didn’t know if we could, but I knew we could this year,” said Blue Mountain coach David Mason. “I’ve never been prouder of our basketball team. My boys wanted it tonight.”
Blue Mountain (15-2) led by as many as 13 points, 61-48, midway through fourth quarter on a runner by Girley. Ripley battled back with a 14-4 run to get within 65-62 on Brit Lindley’s 3-pointer. Two Jamar Rutherford free throws cut the lead to 66-64 with 1:16 to play.
Blue Mountain missed several free throw attempts, but Ripley was unable to get key baskets. The Cougars got a bucket and a pair of free throws from Girley and two more free throws from Ruedas in the final 20 seconds to seal the win.
“I was playing for my mom,” said Girley, who lost his mother, Evia, suddenly last August.
“The only thing she wanted us to do was to beat Ripley and win Tippah County Tournament. It feels good and I know she’s jumping around up there.”
Blue Mountain led 16-15 after the opening quarter, but pushed the lead to 34-29 by halftime.
Ripley (13-4) played without leading scorer Malik Pearson, who tweeked a knee injury in Friday’s win over Falkner. The Tigers were led by Isaiah Howard with 17 points and Ralph Green’s 16 points, including a putback dunk to tie the game in the first quarter.
Canaan Ratliff scored nine points in the third to give Ripley a 42-39 lead, but a Ruedas 3-pointer tied the game. Ripley never led again.
Ratliff finished with 16.
(G) Ripley 73, Pine Grove 39: The Lady Tigers (12-40 got 21 points from Jayla Chills, 11 from Matavia Cox and 10 from Daisha Colom to win their fifth consecutive girls’ title. Bryana Davis had a game-high 22 for Pine Grove (12-6).