By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN – Following a superb football season, East Webster finally got its boys basketball team on the floor Tuesday night.
The Wolverines will have to wait at least a little while longer to get their first win.
East Webster put up a furious comeback attempt over the final minute of play, but Houston held on for a 60-57 win in Cumberland.
"We turned the ball over at crucial times, just nonsense turnovers," said East Webster head coach Corey Stidham. "First-game jitters I'm sure had a little bit to do with it, but no excuses. You got beat."
With the Wolverines (0-1) trailing by eight points 59-51 with just 25 seconds to play, Jamie McKee almost single-handedly pulled out a win for East Webster.
McKee sunk a pair of 3-pointers in a span of mere seconds to pull the Wolverines to within two, then tried to make it three in a row to give East Webster the lead.
Instead, McKee's last attempt rimmed out.
"That's one thing (McKee) can do, he can shoot the basketball," said Stidham. "We've got to get the ball to him in situations where he can hit that jumper. He hit a couple of big ones, and the third one, I thought it had went down. I was about to come off the bench."
After Houston (5-2) stretched the lead back to three with a free throw on its ensuing possession, East Webster got one last chance with just 3 seconds to play.
The Wolverines never got off a shot, however, as Houston's John Ryan Porter secured a game-ending steal at midcourt.
It was a fitting end to the contest after Stidham witnessed his team lose the basketball numerous times throughout the game.
One such stretch came midway through the third quarter when Houston stretched a 32-29 advantage out to 39-29 thanks to a pair of critical turnovers.
"We had a couple of inexperienced guards in there at the time and (Houston) got the best of them," said Stidham. "That bleeding got going and we couldn't stop it. We couldn't get a timeout to get it stopped. I was hoping they could play through it. It was just one of those things that the more experience they get in game-time situations, the more they'll adjust to it."
While East Webster's turnovers hurt, Stidham pointed to the Wolverines' 19 missed free throws as the key factor that killed his team's chances Tuesday.
"In a two or three point ballgame, that's the difference between winning and losing," said Stidham.
In defeat, the Wolverines did get a pair of outstanding performances from Miguel Graham and Ledrick Patterson.
Both Graham and Patterson finished with 18 points.
Xavier Moye also tallied 10 for East Webster.
Clarence Frison paced Houston with a game-high 23 points, 16 of which came in the second half as the Hilltoppers held off the Wolverines.
"You've got to make the plays when you get the opportunities," said Stidham.
East Webster will return to action on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. when they host Ackerman as part of the East Webster Invitational Tournament.
Over the course of the three-day event, East Webster will also face West Oktibbeha on Friday at 8:30 p.m. and county rival Eupora on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Stidham says the tournament provides the Wolverines with just the opportunity they need.
"The more we play, the better we are going to get," said Stidham. "We get that opportunity this weekend with three very good local teams coming in. We get three straight days of plenty of basketball. We're ready to get it going."
East Webster 33
MABEN – Houston's Tynita Baker and Jasmine Pierce combined for 33 points as the Lady Hilltoppers downed the East Webster.
The Lady Wolverines (0-3) were hampered by 20 total turnovers, a stat that East Webster head coach Mandy Fondren says can be attributed to the Lady Hilltoppers' man-to-man, pressure defense.
"That's the first time we've seen man-to-man," said Fondren. "We can handle zone pretty well, and we handled the man-to-man fine in the first half. But they got in our heads a little bit before halftime and we just came out and couldn't handle the pressure. Their defense just got us."
Mary Jo Christ finished with a team-high 10 points for East Webster, eight of which came in the first half as the Lady Wolverines hung tough against Houston.
"If we could have played the second half like we played the first half, it would have been a lot closer game," said Fondren. "In the second half, we kind of got away from our offense. We had been running some plays that we worked on in practice all week and over Thanksgiving. The girls did it well in the first half. That second half, they just stopped."
Houston (5-2) was led in scoring by Tynita Baker's 19 points.
Katesa Dear tallied nine points for East Webster.
Besides Christ and Dear, no other Lady Wolverine tallied more than four points.
Fondren attributed most of her team's struggles to Houston's defensive pressure, but says her team's lack of game experience played in as well.
"(Houston) has played seven games now," said Fondren. "We've only played three. That hurt us tremendously. In practice, we don't really have the players to simulate (man-to-man defense). So game experience would have definitely made a difference."
Fondren's squad will get the chance to catch up to speed beginning Thursday when the Lady Wolverines host Ackerman at 7 p.m. in their first game of the East Webster Invitational Tournament.
As part of the tournament, the Lady Wolverines will also play West Oktibbeha on Friday at 7 p.m. and Eupora on Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We have until January to get it together," said Fondren. "I tell the girls to keep their heads up. These games prepare us for district play and they are all doing a good job of realizing that."