SALTILLO GIRLS WIN TITLE; SHANNON BOYS HOLD OFF TIGERS
By D.E. Wheeler
SHANNON James Kemp has been coaching girls basketball at Saltillo High School 15 years, and has not had this happen before. He could get used to it, though.
In the finals of the Lee County Tournament Saturday, the Saltillo Lady Tigers withstood the host Shannon Lady Raiders, winning the girls championship 49-47.
The boys final saw the Red Raiders play good defense on Nettleton’s explosive scorer, Reggie Sharp, and hold off the Tigers 59-55.
“I sure can’t remember this happening, and I’ve been here 15 years and I know we haven’t won the tournament,” Kemp said. “The last time we played them (a Shannon victory), it was a high-scoring game.
“I didn’t want to get into a fullcourt game this time unless we had to.”
Kemp and the Lady Tigers (11-8) managed to stay out of a fullcourt contest with the Lady Raiders (8-9), but Shannon managed to keep the game close. In the fourth quarter, the lead changed twice and the score was tied three times.
Shannon took its last lead at 43-42 with 2:46 left on a free throw by Nancy Hooks. Tootie Carter made a free throw for Saltillo, then Candice Homan came off the bench for the Lady Tigers her first action of the half and drained a 15-foot jumper to put Saltillo up 45-43 with 2:14 left.
Shannon’s Commada McIntosh made two free shots with 1:40 left to tie the score for the last time at 45-45. Saltillo only made 4-of-8 free throws in the last minute, but that was enough to hold off Shannon, which pushed up several quick shots.
“I thought one key play was when No. 23 (Homan) came in and hit a two-point shot,” Kemp said. “Our girls played hard, the whole game they did, but so did Shannon.”
Neither team managed more than a five-point margin in the first half, with Shannon leading 15-12 after the first quarter and Saltillo leading 27-23 at the half. Shannon had a three-minute, 11-2 run in the third quarter to take a 34-33 lead, but the Lady Tigers led 40-38 at the end of the period.
A basket by Mytisha Floyd and free throws by McIntosh lifted the Lady Raiders to a 42-40 margin with 4:41 to play. But Kendall Kimbrough converted a turnover into a layup for Saltillo and a 42-42 score, and the game was close the rest of the way.
Kimbrough and Harrelson each managed 10 points in a balanced Saltillo attack while Robbin Mabry scored 15 and Hooks 13 for Shannon.
“We had the cold hand in the first half (shooting), and they went to the line and stayed at the line,” Shannon coach Glenda Scott said. “We played good defense tonight, good defense on No. 12 (Marla McCreary).
“I thought if we stopped her and Kimbrough, we had a good chance.”
The inside tandem of Floyd and Denita Ruff were in foul trouble early, and each had their fourth foul in the third quarter for the Lady Raiders, who had beaten the tournament’s No. 1 seed Nettleton on Thursday. The Lady Tigers were the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
– “I think that if we had hit half our foul shots, it would have changed the complexion of the game,” Shannon boys coach Mike Scott said.
Despite going only 6-of-23 from the foul line, the Red Raiders (17-3) successfully defended their boys county title. Nettleton stayed close, tying the game at 50-50 with 4:47 to play on a Bill Hall basket.
But the Shannon defense kept Nettleton from getting easy shots and the Red Raiders executed their halfcourt offense well the rest of the way. A Josh Copperwood basket pulled the Tigers (9-7) to within 56-53 with 1:52 left, but an Andre Jones layup and a Rashad Shannon free throw iced the win.
Marcus Rogers led Shannon in scoring with 19, Titus Goree hit 12 and Jones 10. For Nettleton, Fred Word tallied 19 and Nate Cox 10.
“Other kids stepped up and played well for Nettleton tonight,” Scott said. “We were trying our best to slow (Sharp down).
Sharp was in foul trouble most of the game, and only managed nine points. Shannon led 35-33 at the half and 46-41 after the third quarter.