By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN – In a word, the East Oktibbeha girls' win over West Lowndes Friday could simply be described as dominating.
The Lady Titans had a 20-point lead at halftime, were up 41-16 after three quarters and cruised to the finish line in a 47-34 victory over the Lady Panthers at the West Oktibbeha Christmas Classic.
East Oktibbeha (6-6) has now split its first two games of the three-day event in Maben after falling to West Oktibbeha 50-48 on Thursday.
On Friday, the Lady Titans were able to take lessons learned from the previous night's defeat to bounce back into the win column.
That much was evident from the rebounding of Kelcie Lanier.
"(Thursday) after the game, I told (Lanier) that I want her main goal to be averaging double-figures in rebounding," said East Oktibbeha head coach Randy Brooks. "I told her not to concentrate so much on scoring because her scoring touch isn't there yet."
Lanier did exactly as asked.
She scored just five points, but totaled 16 boards, giving sophomore scoring threats Quanisha Doss and Savannah Blair plenty of second chances to find the basket.
Doss scored a game-high 16 points for the Lady Titans, just ahead of Blair's 14-point tally.
"We try to have balanced scoring," said Brooks. "Our sophomore class right now is carrying us. We're a young team and we're still searching for an identity."
Shondra Nichols added eight points for East Oktibbeha.
West Lowndes (4-5) was never able to get into a rhythm offensively against the Lady Titans.
East Oktibbeha's defense limited the Lady Panthers to eight first quarter points, six second quarter points and merely two points in the third quarter.
In the game's final period, West Lowndes finally put together a surge, outscoring East Oktibbeha 18-4 as Brooks gave many of his reserves playing time.
"I try to tell the girls, don't let up because there's a lot of basketball left to be played," said Brooks. "I try and let everybody play and put the young girls out there and let them play, but they don't understand the concept of varsity basketball quite yet. You've got to play a whole game."
Tyesha Knott paced West Lowndes with 12 points.
In the final day of the West Oktibbeha Christmas Classic, Brooks and his Lady Titans will try to build on Friday's win today at 4 p.m. against Aberdeen.
"We use tournaments like this and the ones we've got coming up to get ready for our district season," said Brooks. "I think we're ready. I told the girls that from here on out, the competition gets tougher. We've got to buckle down and go to work."
West Lowndes 90,
East Oktibbeha 58
MABEN – West Lowndes outran East Oktibbeha literally and figuratively Friday at the West Oktibbeha Christmas Classic.
The Panthers used a fast-paced, transition-scoring offense to pull ahead early, then stretched their advantage out even further with sharp-shooting to notch an easy win in Maben.
"We kind of killed ourselves with just mental mistakes," said East Oktibbeha head coach Barnett Robinson. "We were lagging on defense, not rebounding and turning the ball over. We're just not doing the things that it takes to win."
With the loss, East Oktibbeha falls to 1-12 for the season, including 0-2 over the first two days of the Christmas Classic.
The Titans dropped a 64-51 decision to the host Timberwolves on Thursday.
On Friday, West Lowndes made sure East Oktibbeha's struggles continued as the Panthers benefitted from Tyquan Lucious' 38 points, Deandra Lewis' 20 and Brandon Clark's 19.
"They came to play and we didn't," said Robinson. "We tried to set up a defense that could defend against their shooting, but we just weren't getting out there on the shooters and they did their job by knocking them down."
Lucious in particular hurt the Titans from the outside, knocking down a total of six three-pointers.
Marlan Fair led East Oktibbeha with 17 points.
Casey Neal added 16 for the Titans.
West Lowndes controlled the contest from the offset, leading 21-10 after the first quarter, 50-30 at the half and 73-42 after the third period.
Such a display was upsetting for Robinson whose team just can't seem to get its season turned around.
"We just don't have the playing experience," said Robinson. "We have guys out there that haven't played before."
With district play looming, the lack of progress bothers Robinson.
"I am concerned," said Robinson. "I thought by now we'd be out of this funk, but we're not. We just have to keep playing and chipping away. Keep working on the things we need to work on. I think we have to dig within ourselves and believe within ourselves that we still can turn this season around. I can believe it but if the team doesn't believe it, there's nothing I can do but continue to preach it."
East Oktibbeha concludes play in the Christmas Classic today at 5:30 p.m. against Aberdeen.