By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
BELMONT – The last time the Ripley Lady Tigers and Cleveland East Side Lady Trojans met, it was the first game of the 2011 season with nothing at stake.
When the two teams met in the quarterfinals of the girls’ Class 3A North Mississippi tournament, there was plenty on the line.
Thursday, the Lady Tigers used an 11-0 third-quarter run to gain momentum in a close game and eventually advance with a 68-53 win.
A nip-and-tuck first half ended with the Lady Tigers trailing 31-29 at the break.
“We finally got the transition game going,” Ripley coach Katie Bates said. “We turned up the pressure defense and got some easier baskets.”
Early in the third quarter, the Lady Trojans took their final lead of the game (33-31) on a Lyshyra Cotton jumper. The Lady Tigers answered with four straight fast-break lay ups and a 3-ball by Jayla Chills to take a 42-33 with 4:51 to play. Chills led all scorers with 23 points.
East Side (25-4) got as close as 55-50 with three minutes remaining, but Becca Ruckes who missed most of the game with foul trouble scored six points in the final two minutes to seal the win. Ruckes finished with 10 points.
Foul trouble plagued the Lady Tigers for much of the contest, as the 6-foot-1 Ruckes missed almost the entire second and third quarters on the bench. Bates said she was “a little concerned” but had confidence in her reserves.
“We’ve played with foul trouble before, so it wasn’t a shock,” said Bates. “We’re not a one-person team and we have girls that can score.”
Zaida Cox and Daisha Colom added 13 points each for Ripley (26-4), who will look to punch their ticket to a third straight state tournament tonight against Nettleton at 7:30 p.m.
Walnut 43, West Bolivar 38: Presley Pulse scored a game-high 20 points as Walnut (24-7) outscored West Bolivar 19-13 in the fourth to advance.