February 17, 2009
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
MACON -- A seven-point first-quarter deficit proved to be child''s play for the Noxubee County High School girls basketball team.
Those kind of leads evaporate quickly when you can press teams like the Lady Tigerettes.
It also helps to have propulsion from guards Jeraldine Campbell and Shanteria Tate.
Campbell scored a game-high 39 points and Tate added 16 Monday night to lead Noxubee County to an 82-70 victory against Clarksdale in the opening round of the Class 4A North Half State Tournament.
With the victory, Noxubee County (17-9), the top seed from Region 4, advances to face Center Hill, a 69-61 winner Monday against Yazoo County, at 7 p.m. Thursday at New Albany.
Clarksdale, the No. 4 seed from Region 2, ends its season at 19-9.
It took Noxubee County the final 3 minutes, 33 seconds of the first quarter to turn a 9-2 deficit into an 11-all tie entering the second quarter.
The Lady Tigerettes forced three turnovers and made a steal in the stretch. A three-quarter court pressure defense -- fueled by guards Campbell, Tate, and Jade Stewart -- accounted for two of the turnovers.
"Our coach told us not to give up and we were still in the game," said Tate, a senior point guard. "He told us to keep doing what we were doing and to close down the post down, and spread it out and we can get back in it, and that''s what we did."
The defense continued to do its part in the first 1:59 of the second quarter. Two more steals and three more turnovers -- including one on a charge taken by Campbell -- and eight points by Campbell and four by Brianna Brooks helped Noxubee County take a 24-13 lead. The lead slipped below 10 points only once -- at 24-15 -- the remainder of the game.
"We got rid of the first-quarter jitters and were really loosening up," Noxubee County coach A.E. Williams said. "Nine to two is kind of scary and we kind of turned up our defense and started blocking out better under the basket.
"We were in slow motion in the early minutes of the game. From that point on, we were pretty much in charge."
Noxubee County remained in charge thanks to Campbell, the do-it-all sophomore guard, who pushed tempo and scored. She also dribbled past defenders and pulled up to score.
Not to be outdone, Campbell, who had 11 rebounds, zigged and zagged into the lane, bounced off contact, and scored.
"(Campbell) took over, and we didn''t have a guard to match their guard," Clarksdale coach Luster Tyler II said. "We needed somebody to step up and say, ''Coach, I got her. Let me stop her.'' "
Tyler said he has seen a few seniors and juniors in the state who he believes are better than Campbell. None of those players, though, likely are able to score the number of ways that Campbell can.
"She is a good ballplayer," Tyler II said. "She is aggressive, she has a good jump shot, and she is smart. I can keep talking about her all night."
When Campbell wasn''t weaving into scoring position, Tate was pushing the tempo or on the receiving end of passes she turned into assists.
Tate loves to push the ball with a powerful dribble that can be just as effective as the Lady Tigerettes'' offense when everything is going well -- like Monday night.
"We played real hard," Tate said. "Me and the guards stuck in and we never gave up."
Tate also is a member of the school''s track and field team. She competes in the 200 and 400 meters and the 4x100 and the 4x400 relays. She said she is undecided about a college but would like to go out of state to play basketball.
Sometimes, though, Williams has trouble slowing his players down. There were times Monday when the Lady Tigerettes almost seemed uncomfortable trying to hold the ball and work their half-court offense.
But Noxubee County''s ability to use its pressure defense to create turnovers or to make steals proved to be too much to overcome, even for a team with plenty of ballhandlers.
"Normally I don''t worry about a press because we usually handle it well," Tyler II said. "Tonight, for some reason, we didn''t handle the pressure."
Fortunately, Noxubee County''s willingness to remain in fifth gear on offense didn''t work against it.
"Even when I try to low them down, we''re always in a hurry," Williams said. "It can be a positive or a negative. It is something we''re going to have to discuss more as a team. It is something we''re probably going to have to listen to as we go down the road."
n In other Class 4A action, Lafayette County defeated West Point.
In Class 3A, Humphreys County beat Amory.
In Class 1A South, Pisgah defeated East Oktibbeha 55-43.
Alexis Selvie and Cierra Ferguson had 11 points apiece for the Lady Titans (9-16).
Kyani Davis added eight.
Sebastopol beat West Oktibbeha, and East Webster beat Pelahatchie 51-42.
Iyeshia Thomas had 19 points and Kaley Allen added 16 for East Webster (19-14), which advances to face South Leake at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bogue Chitto.
n Noxapeter 8, Noxubee County 3: At Macon, Beunika Hunter went 2-for-2 with two runs scored, and Kiasha Turner was 1-for-3 with three RBIs, but the Lady Tigerettes lost their home game.
Hunter took the loss. She allowed six walks and three hits and struck out 15. The team had three errors.
Teira Smith was 1-for-3 with a single and a run scored.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.