Tippah County Tournament set to tip Jan. 8

FALKNER–“It’s going to be a very competitive tournament this year,” said Cliff Orman, whose Pine Grove Lady Panthers have won the last two county-wide clashes. “Not saying that it hasn’t been competitive in the past, but it’s going to be tough because anybody can win it this year. We’re excited and we look forward to the Tippah County Tournament every year, for county bragging rights.” The Tippah County Tournament begins at Falkner with quarterfinal games Thursday, Jan. 8, semi-finals on Friday and championship games Saturday. As the Lady Panthers (12-8, 4-1 in 1-1A) get ready to defend their title, they will rely on the veteran leadership of the three seniors that lead them in scoring. Amber Johnson averages 16 points per game while Candace Davis and Alecia Bellew both average 10. This will be the last county tournament for seniors Johnson and Davis. The Pine Grove duo has started every game since their freshman season and enters the tournament with a combined record of 97-36. Included in those 97 wins are the 2007 and 2008 Tippah County Tournament championship, a 2008 Region 1-1A title, and three West Union Round Robin Tournament titles from 2005 to 2007. “They’ve won a lot of games, so they have a lot of experience at winning,” adds Orman. They bring a lot of experience and a lot of leadership that we need.” To win this year’s tournament, the Lady Panthers could have to deal with upstarts Ripley and Blue Mountain. The Lady Tigers are 9-1 and opened their season with a 57-32 win over the Lady Panthers. Before the Christmas holidays, the Lady Cougars improved their division record to 5-0 after handing a 51-48 loss to the Lady Panthers For the boys, the Ripley Tigers have won seven consecutive tournament championships and could make it eight if the perimeter play of leading scorer Acie Vance and inside dominance of Tyrie Berry continues. First-year Head Coach Trent Adair served as assistant under Harvey Childers for three of those championships and says the tournament is great for the community. “It’s always fun,” said Adair. “It’s always a big deal and a chance to have pride in the community, to say we’re the best in the county.” Going into the tournament, the Tigers will be the odds-on favorite but Adair shies away from that assumption. “I don’t know about us being the favorite, but anytime you win as many times in a row as we have, it gives the other team extra incentive.” If any team is prepared to make the most of that “extra incentive,” and end the Tigers’ run at the top, it’s the Pine Grove Panthers. The Panthers were the last team to hoist the tournament trophy, in 2001 before the Tigers began their run in 2002. Head Coach Brad Pounders says he’s excited and hopes his Panthers will “make a good showing.” At 14-6, the Panthers are led by Dylan Hill and Jeremy Mauney. The duo scored 10 points each in a 64-47 loss to the Tigers on Nov. 18. Given the stakes and the storylines going into this year’s tournament, regardless of who wins, Tippah County is in for three great nights of basketball.

Southern Sentinel