By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN - In some ways, the West Oktibbeha Lady Timberwolves may consider themselves to have gotten two wins in their victory over East Webster Friday.
Lady Timberwolves senior and Mississippi State commitment Shamia Robinson returned to the floor for the first time this season and West Oktibeha cruised to a 62-32 victory over the host Lady Wolverines in the East Webster Invitational Tournament.
Robinson didn't start, but took the floor in the early moments of the second quarter to a loud ovation.
"I felt great," said Robinson. "I knew it was time for me to play ball when I heard those (cheers)."
Robinson finished with just six points in the win, but West Oktibbeha coach Kevin Bailey, who assists his wife Shelia Bailey on the bench, said Friday wasn't about his standout producing numbers.
"We just wanted to get Shamia in there and let her get back her feel for the game," said Kevin Bailey.
At least on Friday, the Lady Timberwolves didn't need a big night from their star. Jaslynn Bedford put up a game high 24 points and Brittany Jones scored 18.
"We wanted to work the ball down low to (Bedford) as much as possible and get the ball to Brittany on the wing," said Kevin Bailey. "(Bedford) can open up the 3's and drive to the lane."
West Oktibbeha used the play of Bedford and Jones to pull away early.
After East Webster jumped ahead 9-6 in the first quarter, the Lady Timberwolves used a 16-0 run to take a 22-9 lead by the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Soon after, Robinson got her first playing time of the season, finally getting to produce instead of watch.
"It hurt not playing," said Robinson. "It had me thinking about the things I could do to make us do better if I was out there."
Robinson thinks that now she is able to play with the likes of Bedford and Jones, West Oktibbeha has the chance to start piling up the wins.
"If we keep our mind focused and stay on the right track, I think we can make it to Jackson," said Robinson.
West Oktibbeha evened its record at 6-6 with the win.
East Webster, who was led in scoring by Mary Jo Christ's 14 points, fell to 0-5.
The Lady Wolverines will attempt to bounce back from the defeat when they face Eupora today at 7 p.m.
West Oktibbeha will battle Ackerman at 4 p.m.
Robinson says she still won't start today, but plans to get some more floor time as she works her way back into basketball shape.
"We're just going to work her in slowly," said Kevin Bailey. "By January, at district time, hopefully she'll be back in a starting position."
MABEN – Aside from notching wins, the Ackerman Lady Indians are making sure tournament-goers are getting their money's worth at the East Webster Invitational.
For the second straight day, Ackerman battled blow-for-blow with an area adversary Friday, this time earning a win over Eupora.
"We're just doing what we can to get wins," said Lady Indians point guard Andrea Cutts. "(Eupora) is our rival so we had to win."
Like in Thursday night's 47-45 win over East Webster, Cutts paced the Ackerman offense with 14 points, tying Iasia Lee for the team high.
Carmen Long added 12 as the Indians improved to 3-1.
Perhaps the biggest points of the contest belonged to Sarah Bowles, who stepped to the free-throw line with just over 5 minutes remaining, sunk both shots, and provided Ackerman with a 44-43 lead.
The Lady Indians never trailed again.
"(Bowles) has composure," said Ackerman head coach Gary Beals. "She has good form and not a lot bothers her. She stepped up and hit two crucial free throws. She always does a good job for us."
Raishawnda Brantley led Eupora with a game-high 22 points, followed by Kalleyah Evans' 11-point scoring output.
Brantley's and Evans' performances couldn't overcome a string of Eupora fourth quarter turnovers following Bowles' free throws, a trecherous stretch that allowed Ackerman to outscore the Lady Eagles 15-6 in the game's final period, thwarting Eupora's efforts to secure its first win.
Beals also gave plenty of credit to Lee for her rebounding efforts in the fourth quarter.
Lady Eagles head coach Curtis Ford said inconsistent play comes with the territory when dealing with inexperienced players.
"With youth, you play to keep from losing," said Ford. "That's what we were doing. We were tight. Then we just dropped our heads with about a minute to play. We just seemed ready to quit then."
The Lady Eagles fell to 0-4.
The Lady Indians were able to avoid such critical mistakes down the stretch, thanks in large part to the ball handling skills of Cutts who is playing her first season at the point after spending the previous years of her career as a post player.
"All our seniors from last year graduated so I've got to do it," said Cutts of her position switch. "It's tough. I shoot at my house and I go to the gym. I've just got to work on it."
Beals belives Cutts is doing just fine in her new spot.
"She is just a heck of an athlete," said Beals. "She does so much for us. She'll do anything. That's not her natural position, but she has to play that."
Cutts will try to lead the Lady Indians to a perfect 3-0 mark in the East Webster Invitational when Ackerman plays West Oktibbeha today at 4 p.m.
"We've been playing in runs," said Beals. "We'll have good runs and bad runs. We've got to put it all together (tonight)."
Eupora will try its hand against East Webster in the final girls game of the event today at 7 p.m.
"We've got to put those four quarters together," said Ford. "We have not played a game yet where we put them together. We've played two quarters or three quarters, but you never play four quarters until you learn how to put people away or protect the lead."