December 13, 2009 12:30:00 AM
CRAWFORD -- East Oktibbeha High School girls basketball coach Randy Brooks has accepted it will be a learning process for his team this season.
That''s why a win like the one the Lady Titans got Saturday night put a smile on his face.
It was almost not a happy situation.
After jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first half of its game against rival West Oktibbeha High School, East Oktibbeha held on for a 52-51 victory.
The win wasn''t secured by the Lady Titans until Brenesha Brownlee''s shot attempt for the Lady Timberwolves skipped over the rim with 1 second remaining.
Brooks, who was pleased with the defense on the final play, said East Oktibbeha is still in transition from the previous coach, Cynthia Davenport.
The Lady Titans (4-5) only returned two starters from last year.
"Right now, the girls are still trying to figure out who I am and what I want," Brooks said. "We''ll try some different things between now and the district tournament.
"Right now, we''re still building our depth. We''re a young team overall with (five) seniors that have not played organized basketball."
Brooks said the strategy on the final play was to contest whoever took the shot.
Brownlee wasn''t supposed to be the first option for West Oktibbeha coach Shelia Bailey.
"We didn''t get what we wanted," Bailey said. "We wanted to go to Shawmira (Robinson), do a high-screen isolation and screen for her so she could take the last shot. If we didn''t get it to Shawmira, then we would go to Brenesha Brownlee. We thought (Brownlee) got fouled on that shot, but they didn''t call it."
The Lady Timberwolves (6-2) came out flat and trailed 11-4 after the first quarter, 29-9 with 2 minutes and 45 seconds remaining before halftime and 29-14 at halftime.
West Oktibbeha outscored its host 37-13 in the second half to close the gap and get in a position to win the game.
"We dug too big of a hole," Bailey said. "We fought back, but we should have played like that in the first half. It was a rivalry game in a tough atmosphere and it just got to them."
Brooks was disappointed that East Oktibbeha couldn''t use the clock to its advantage when it established the big lead.
"I told them during a timeout that I don''t want anything but a wide-open layup and then play defense," Brooks said. "That''s what I wanted, but they ran a man-to-man on us. We just have to adjust to those type of things."
Joslyn Gillespie and Shondra Nichols scored 13 points each for the Lady Titans.
For West Oktibbeha, Brittany James led all scorers with 18 points, while Robinson had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Joslynn Bedford had 10 points and nine rebounds.
n East Oktibbeha 94, West Oktibbeha 63 (B): The starters for the Titans didn''t start for disciplinary reasons, but once they got into the game, it didn''t take long for them to get into the flow.
After East Oktibbeha got down 4-0, coach Barnett Robinson had seen enough and put his starters in at the 6-minute mark of the first quarter. Douglas Chandler hit a 3-pointer, then Geonte'' Richardson had a basket and free-throw to give the Titans a 5-4 lead with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
"We''ve got to learn to come out and play hard every night," Barnett said, no matter who starts or is on the floor.
East Oktibbeha (6-4) didn''t have any problem after the initial stages of the game and held a 23-9 advantage after the first quarter and 43-20 at halftime.
The Titans dominated the third quarter by outscoring the Timberwolves 31-17 to move out to a 74-37 lead.
At that point, Robinson was able to empty his bench to get a look at several different combinations.
"You never know who you are going to need when the playoffs start," Robinson said.
Robinson knows he can count on Chandler as he poured in 26 points and was followed by Richardson''s 21 points and eight rebounds. Kirby Sherman added 18 points and Jamario Carter had 15 points.
"Doug makes the team go and the other guys play off him," Barnett said. "If he''s having an off night, then pretty much the team will have an off night. If he''s on, we''re the type of team that''s going to be on."
It was a tough loss to accept for West Oktibbeha coach Danny Crawford, but he''s trying to keep the spirits of a young team up.
"I try to keep words of encouragement in their ear and hope they''ll bounce back," Crawford said. "I''m new and we''ve got young players. With only having one returning starter, the road gets rough sometimes. We got in early foul trouble and we didn''t do a good enough job defensively."
Kendrix Yates tried to keep West Oktibbeha (2-5) in the game with 34 points and 15 rebounds. La''Drake Powell added 11 points.
2. Schaefer, MSU are 'heartbroken' no longer LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Starkville High's Perry shows his versatility HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Noxubee County will miss Patterson LOCAL COLUMNS