By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BOONEVILLE – Jayla Chills connected on three baskets in the opening five minutes of Ripley’s game against Center Hill on Friday afternoon.
From that point, though, Chills and her teammates closed the first half on a cold spell that they could not recover from in a 43-39 loss to the Lady Mustangs at the Booneville Kiwanis Classic.
“You can’t win a game in the first half, but you can lose one and that’s what we did,” said Ripley coach Katie Bates. “We got behind and let them control it the rest of the game.”
In a matchup of state tournament participants from last season, Class 3A runner-up Ripley led 6-4 after Chills’ third basket but trailed 8-7 after one quarter.
Center Hill, which returned four starters from its team that lost to Oxford in the 5A North title game a year ago, used a full court press in the second to disrupt Ripley’s rhythm.
The Lady Tigers (10-4) made just one field goal in the period. They ended the half shooting 4 of 15 from the field and trailing 23-12.
The same drought that cursed Ripley plagued Center Hill (12-4) after the break. The Lady Mustangs hit two field goals the entire half but capitalized on free throws, knocking down 16 of 29 attempts.
“We missed a lot of layups and their physicality had a lot to do with it,” Center Hill coach Jonathan Moore said. “We got a little mentally weak there for a minute that really brought them back and we had to regroup.”
Back-to-back baskets at the end of the third by Jada Rich, whose 11 points led the Lady Tigers, cut Ripley’s deficit to 30-26.
Zaida Cox tied the game (35-35) with 4:34 to play on two free throws, but Marisa Knox scored 9 of her 11 points on free shots down the stretch to help Center Hill edge ahead.
Kaelin Kneeland and Kiara Golden joined Knox with 11 points.