By Anthony S. Puca
The deep and talented Marshall County High School Tigerettes had their home opener Tuesday night in Lewisburg and the unfortunate victims of a smothering defensive onslaught and an inside-outside offensive attack were the Lady Warriors from Culleoka as the Tigerettes cruised to a lopsided 80-11 victory.
The Class AA state runners-up in 2006 fed off the emotion of the opening night crowd and circled the Lady Warriors like sharks in chum-filled waters with a pressing defense that forced turnover after turnover, leading to easy transition baskets by the running-and-gunning Tigerettes.
Jessica "The Assassin" McQueen led the way for the Tigerettes with 18 points on a six-for-six effort beyond the three-point stripe. While McQueen was raining down the threes, Lauren March and Jakerra Simmons were controlling the paint as they combined for 26 points in the low post.
Julie Andrews, who scored a team high 7 points for Culleoka, started the contest with two free throws to put the Lady Warriors in front 2-0. Marshall County then went on a 23-0 tear and led 25-4 after the first quarter.
The ball-hawking Tigerettes had 11 first-half steals as Danika Hopkins, NeNe McClean, Lauren Reeves, McKenna Moffett and Addricka O'Neal blanketed the Culleoka backcourt. Culleoka had trouble with the almost every inbound pass after a Tigerette bucket and on several occasions did not even get the ball past mid-court before the Marshall County guards either swiped the ball or forced a bad pass that led to a steal.
The Tigerettes led 50-8 at the half and still did not let up as Head Coach David Steely rotated players in and out the entire second half, proving that the Tigerettes have one of the deepest benches in the state.
Eleven players scored for Marshall County as the lead after three was 69-11 and the new 35-point "mercy rule" went into affect in the fourth quarter. The rule states the clock would only stop for shooting fouls, timeouts, injuries, and the administration of technical fouls. The clock will continue to run for the remainder of the game, regardless if the point differential gets closer than 35 points.
The Tigerettes' third string even held the Lady Warriors scoreless in the fourth quarter as the game ended 80-11 in favor of the Tigerettes. The Tigerettes take the floor next at Columbia High School in the annual Thanksgiving Rotary Classic versus Obion County on Saturday night at 5:00pm.
Tigers play inspired game, just miss big upset
Class A Mr. Basketball finalist DeMario Williams and the high flying 2006 state runners-up Culleoka Warriors found out that this year's Tiger squad is not the same as the recent past dictates. The Tigers held Williams to just 11 points in the game and Culleoka barely escaped Dottie Kelso Memorial Gym with a 53-50 victory.
The Tigers (1-1) started a five-guard rotation and confused the Warriors into numerous first-quarter turnovers to lead 13-11. The confused Culleoka squad would never lead by more then three points in the first half as the inspired Tigers held firm on defense and controlled the ball efficiently on offense to trail by just one point, 23-22 at the half.
Second half rally comes up just short
Culleoka began to pull away in the third quarter, leading by as much as seven points, but the Tigers kept it close as Hunter Osborne hit a three-pointer in the final seconds to cut the lead back to four at 41-37.
Williams and the Warriors stretched the lead to eight points with just over five minutes to play, but Ryan Nicholson hit back-to-back three-bombs to electrify the crowd and cut the lead to just two points at 45-43 with 3:25 left.
After trading missed shots on two possessions, a pressure defense caused a Warrior turnover with 2:49 to play. After a timeout, MCHS Head Coach Jason Tigert called the perfect play and the Tigers found a wide-open Blaise Spencer, who drilled a long three from the corner and the Tigers went in front 46-45.
Antwane Beach hit two free throws for Culleoka to give them back the lead, but Cameron McCullough hit a leaping leaner in the lane to see-saw the lead back to the Tigers at 48-47 with just over a minute and a half to play.
C.J. Holt hit two free throws for Culleoka with 52 seconds left to push his team back up at 49-48. Williams made it 51-48 on a lay-up with 28 seconds left. Marshall County had two chances to cut the lead late, but could not convert from the free throw line and Culleoka and Williams ran off the court, knowing they had escaped the Tiger den by the skin of their teeth.
Tigert, exhausted from the contest, said after the game, "I was very proud of our effort tonight. We had some mental breakdowns which are expected so early in the year. I am very happy with our overall effort and this is not a situation where we panic because we lost one game."
Spencer led the Tigers with 15 points, Nicholson scored 11, Osborne had 8, and freshman Kedron Johnson also scored 8 points in his varsity debut. The Tigers take the court next on Nov. 27 at Lincoln County.