By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN – The rivalry between Eupora and East Webster has always been intense.
Saturday night in the final game of the East Webster Invitational Tournament, the cross-county adversaries came to blows.
Moments after the Eagles earned a hard-fought 72-64 win over the Wolverines, a pair of players from the opposing schools began to brawl, causing players, coaches, and officials to charge the court to restore order.
Before departing the Sam Henderson Gymnasium, Mississippi High School Activities Association referees assigned to the contest summoned the names of the players involved from the official scorer's table following the altercation.
Both Eupora head coach Curtis Ford and East Webster head coach Corey Stidham declined comment in regards to the postgame scuffle.
As for the game itself, Eupora point guard Derrick Jones did make a statement, scoring 35 points including 24 in the second half alone.
"That kid stepped up and took over a ballgame," said Stidham. "We kept running a couple of different things at him but he just took over the game. We never settled that down and didn't meet the challenge. We didn't play defensively like we should have, but he stepped up."
Deshawn Starks added 18 points for Eupora, who improved to 2-3 with the win.
"We didn't have focus the whole game," said Stidham. "Start to finish, we didn't show the focus to win that basketball game. We didn't have the same focus we've had the last two nights. You've got to show up every night ready to go at it and when you don't come ready to go swinging, it's going to be a long night."
East Webster's defeat drops the Wolverines to 1-3 for the season.
Despite the loss, Stidham's club still had a trio of scorers reach double-figures.
Jamie McKee led East Webster with 21 points, followed by Ledrick Patterson's 18 and Miguel Graham's 16.
Still, it wasn't enough to get past Eupora, a team that has rebounded from a season-opening three-game losing streak to win three in a row.
"We didn't come out with the emotion that we needed to," said Stidham. "We just never could get it going."
West Oktibbeha 68,
MABEN – Coming into Saturday's game against Ackerman at the East Webster Invitational, West Oktibbeha head coach Danny Crawford's stated goal was to get his substitutes playing time and build their confidence.
For Crawford, it was mission accomplished.
Save for a brief stint in the fourth quarter when Crawford granted his regulars' request to get on the floor, primarily the West Oktibbeha bench surged to an easy win over the Indians.
"I wanted to get my role guys who I'm going to need later on down the road, try to get them back comfortable," said Crawford. "We were way more talented than Ackerman and I think it would have been a slap in the face to play my starters on those kids."
Von Smith's sharp-shooting paced the Timberwolves. Smith finished with 28 points, including an 8-for-12 night from 3-point range.
West Oktibbeha improved to 11-2, including a perfect 3-0 at the East Webster Invitational.
For Ackerman and head coach Gary Beals, it was simply the same song, but a different verse as the Indians fell to 0-5.
"We're getting better," said Beals. "But Coach Crawford has a good bunch. They should make a deep run in the playoffs. He's got 10 or 12 guys that can play all the way around. They're good ballplayers. They stay in the gym and do what it takes."
Lenny Taylor and Spencer James led the Indians with eight points apiece.
East Webster 35
MABEN – It was merely a win, but Ford hopes Saturday's victory over East Webster will be just the foundation his team needs to build success.
Raishawnda Brantley used a 29-point night to help send Eupora to its first win of the season, a triumph over the Lady Wolverines at the East Webster Invitational.
"Hopefully this will give us a little confidence," Ford said. "We had begun to think that we were playing to keep from losing. Every time the game got close and we'd go ahead a little bit, we'd find a way to let the other team come back. We finally won one tonight. Hopefully we'll get that sense and smell of victory and teach us how to play the whole four quarters."
Eupora improved its record to 1-4 with the win.
East Webster fell to 0-5.
The Lady Wolverines were led in scoring by Katesa Dear's 12 points, followed by Mary Jo Christ's 11.
The contest was tight throughout.
After heading into the fourth quarter tied at 19, Eupora held a 34-33 lead with just a minute to play, then scored five points in the final 60 seconds to cement the victory.
East Webster head coach Mandy Fondren believes the game slipped away under the rim.
"It came down to rebounding," said Fondren. "We couldn't block out (Brantley). She got us at the end with a rebound and putting her shot back up."
West Oktibbeha 51,
MABEN – It didn't take Shamia Robinson long to regain her form.
One day after making her season debut following recovery from knee surgery, the West Oktibbeha standout and Mississippi State commitment rattled off a 21-point performance to help the Lady Timberwolves defeat Ackerman.
At least in the eyes of Beals, Robinson's greatest contributions Saturday had nothing to do with her scoring output.
"She's a ballplayer," said Beals of Robinson. "She's a difference-maker, especially defensively. She's athletic, can play outside, she gets position on you well, she sets good screens, and is just unselfish. She knows how to play without the basketball."
Jaslynn Bedford and Brenesha Brownlee each scored 12 points for West Oktibbeha, who improves to 7-6.
West Oktibbeha, who held a 29-19 advantage at halftime, saw its once-comfortable lead dwindle to just four points late in the fourth quarter.
"Our girls were picking up late on the screens," said Lady Timberwolves assistant coach Kevin Bailey. "We fixed that by telling the person getting screened to just step out."
The change allowed West Oktibbeha to pull away over the game's closing moments.
The Lady Timberwolves completed play in the East Webster Invitational with a perfect 3-0 mark for the event.
Ackerman, who fell to 3-2, was led in scoring by Andrea Cutts' 15 points
Iasia Lee put up 14 points for the Lady Indians.