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By JOEL COLEMAN
CRAWFORD â€“ The East Oktibbeha boys basketball team couldn't keep a good thing going Friday night against West Lowndes.
Facing the Panthers in Crawford, the Titans matched their opposition basket for basket in the first quarter to claim an early 16-14 lead, then struggled through the remaining three periods in a 77-62 loss.
"I think we got a little tired after the first quarter," said East Oktibbeha assistant coach Marc Howard, who was filling in for absent head coach Barnett Robinson. "We just fell apart defensively more than offensively."
West Lowndes took advantage of East Oktibbeha's defensive struggles quickly as the Panthers put together an 11-2 run to begin the second quarter and pushed the Titans into a 25-18 deficit.
By the end of the first half, West Lowndes had stretched its lead to 33-23.
The Panthers built their advantage in large part due to a shooting barrage that impressed Howard.
"I have to give credit to West Lowndes because they shot the ball better than I've seen anyone shoot the ball in a long time," said Howard. "They made every open opportunity they had and made them count. We didn't.
"They moved the ball well, found the open spots and knocked down shots."
The Panthers didn't slow down at all in the second half.
With West Lowndes leading 41-31 early in the third quarter, the Panthers put together a 12-1 run to claim their largest advantage of the game, a 21-point margin at 53-32.
All the while, East Oktibbeha couldn't find any answer.
"We went to a man defense, lost some guys, went to zone and left some guys open," said Howard.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Titans had trimmed their deficit down to 56-40.
East Oktibbeha climbed to within 13 points at 58-45 with 6:44 remaining in the game, but never got any closer.
West Lowndes' Antonio Wilson finished with a game-high 23 points.
Cody Crawford added 20 points for the Panthers while Bryant Smith added 17.
East Oktibbeha was paced by Devontae Lucious' 17-point output.
Davalyn Bell added 16 points.
Chris Harris led the Titans in rebounding with nine.
Still, despite the solid performances of Lucious, Bell and Harris, East Oktibbeha couldn't find a way past its post-first-quarter doldrums as the Titans dropped to 2-5 for the season.
"I think the first quarter probably showed how well the two teams match up a little better," said Howard. "But basketball is like any other sport. Once you're hot, you're hot, and West Lowndes got hot quick. We just came up on the short end."
East Oktibbeha 76,
West Lowndes 31
CRAWFORD â€“ For East Oktibbeha head coach Pam Roberts, this was more like it.
After watching her Lady Titans drop five of the season's first six games, Roberts saw her team put forth a dominating effort in surging to a win over West Lowndes.
"We came together as a team," said Roberts. "I'm really proud of them. They recognize that it's going to take teamwork and team ball to win games."
The Lady Titans (2-5) took a 20-6 lead after one quarter of play and led 37-20 at halftime before rolling to the win.
Quanisha Doss led the way for East Oktibbeha with a game-high 30 points.
Savannah Blair and Lydia Stevenson added 10 points apiece for the Lady Titans, while Chansity Evans hauled in a team-high 11 rebounds.
Though Roberts was impressed with her entire squad's efforts, Doss stood out for East Oktibbeha.
"(Doss) stepped up and took charge," said Roberts. "She played a really good game and showed leadership on the court."
Roberts was also impressed with East Oktibbeha's overall defensive efforts in the game as the Lady Titans stifled West Lowndes all night long, including limiting the Lady Panthers to just three fourth-quarter points.
"We're going to try to keep that up," said Roberts. "We stress defense because defense wins games."