By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN – The campuses of West Oktibbeha and East Webster are just a stone's throw apart.
Friday night's basketball game between the two rival schools at the East Webster Invitational Tournament was just as close.
The Timberwolves used a strong second half performance from Kendrin Yates to slide past the Wolverines 64-62.
"It's always tough when you play your rival from right down the street," said West Oktibbeha head coach Danny Crawford. "The kids have grown up together and played ball together. Then, you play them on their court, they are going to play extra hard. That makes us have to play extra hard."
East Webster, who fell to 1-2, controlled much of the first half, carrying an 18-12 lead after one quarter and a 33-28 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
"My kids didn't respond to the atmosphere and climate of the game in the first half, but they finally found enough in themselves to pull it out," said Crawford.
Two key factors helped the Timberwolves cause.
First, East Webster point guard Ledrick Patterson found himself in early foul trouble that forced him to the bench for the middle portion of the contest.
"That hurt a lot," said East Webster head coach Corey Stidham. "Our guys stepped up off the bench though and did a great job of coming in. Still, it's different when you don't have Ledrick out there making things happen."
Additionally, Yates bounced back from first half foul trouble himself to put up 16 of his 22 points in the final two quarters.
"I got after (Yates) pretty good at halftime," said Crawford. "He got those two quick fouls in the first four minutes and I had to sit him, so I had to get on him."
Whatever Crawford said, it worked.
"My momentum went up," said Yates. "I knew it was time for me to step up. At first, it was like we were going to lose against our rival. That would be the worst feeling ever. But when we turned on though, we turned on."
Dantaveous Crawford and Aaron Brownlee aided Yates' big night.
Dantaveous Crawford finished with 19 points and Brownlee tallied 14 as West Oktibbeha improved to 10-2.
Damion Britt led East Webster with 22 points.
Patterson finished with 17 and Jamie McKee added 11.
The Timberwolves will look to wrap up play undefeated in the East Webster Invitational as they face Ackerman at 5:30 p.m. today.
East Webster will tangle with Eupora at 8:30 p.m.
Stidham says he hopes his team can put Friday's close loss behind them and focus on getting a win against the Eagles.
"It's a county rival," said Stidham. "No doubt, Eupora will step up. We'll step up too. Our guys have too much heart and too much fight to not be ready to go at them."
MABEN – Eupora boys basketball coach Curtis Ford makes no secret about his team's struggles in the early portions of this season.
At least for a day, his concerns were alleviated thanks to a dominating win over rival Ackerman Friday at the East Webster Invitational Tournament.
"Right now, both (Ackerman) and us are struggling, so it did feel good to get a win," said Ford. "I felt like we played with a little more intensity on defense, got up and down the floor better in transition, and we rebounded a little bit better."
Derrick Jones, Deshawn Starks and Jeremy Wright did the majority of the offensive damage for the Eagles.
Jones scored a game-high 27 points, 20 of which came before halftime.
Starks tallied 21 points while Wright finished with 18.
"(Starks and Wright) are our best shooters," said Ford. "(Jones) is our point guard and he's not a jump-shooter. He can drive and penetrate and dish it out. We just tell him to get the ball to (Starks and Wright). Tonight he did. (Jones) took his when it was open in the middle."
Ford's talented trio definitely left an impression as the Eagles improved to 1-3.
Ackerman head coach Gary Beals said his team was simply overmatched.
"It kind of looked like the big Tonka toys up against the Hot Wheels out there," said Beals. "We did have some positives though. When you get out-athleted, people bigger than you are, I told my guys we've got to take some charges on the baseline. I thought we did a good job of that. That kind of thing makes me think in two or three years, we're going to have something special."
The Indians dropped to 0-4 with the loss.
For the Eagles, Ford said the lopsided win created a sense of relief and makes him believe Eupora is starting to turn a curve.
"The dressing room was a whole lot livelier and happier than we have been these last few nights," said Ford. "And I think these guys that played football are getting in a little bit of shape. Tonight, I think our chemistry was a little bit better than it has been too."
Eupora will try and build off of Friday's win tonight at 8:30 p.m. against county rival East Webster.
"That's a big game," said Ford. "Ackerman, Eupora, East Webster, any mix of those is a rivalry. Those games are number one on the schedule."
Ackerman will try rebound at 7 p.m. as they take on West Oktibbeha.