By JOEL COLEMAN
CRAWFORD – What was supposed to be a make-up game felt more like a party for the East Oktibbeha girls basketball team Saturday night.
Facing Montgomery County in a contest originally scheduled for last Tuesday before it was postponed by the early-week winter weather, the Lady Titans dominated from the opening tip, coasting to a 59-40 win.
"We were more loose," said East Oktibbeha coach Randy Brooks. "It was an intense first half, but in the second half, I just told the kids to go out and have fun. That's what basketball is about. This sport should be fun."
For Brooks and the Lady Titans, it was easy to simply sit back and enjoy the happenings during Saturday's victory due to their performance just 24 hours prior in Choctaw County.
On Friday, East Oktibbeha traveled to Weir and beat the Lady Lions 52-44.
According to Brooks, the win over Weir makes his team the frontrunners of Class A, Region 5.
The Lady Titans solidified their spot Saturday in convincing fashion, improving to 12-7 overall and a perfect 5-0 in the division.
"These are the kinds of games that show why we play the Noxubee Counties and West Points and Kemper Counties," said Brooks. "That's why we play the teams that have more kids in their graduating classes than we have in our entire school. They get us ready for games like this."
It sure seemed as though the Lady Titans were more than adequately prepared for the Lady Hornets.
Quanisha Doss, Lydia Stevenson and Kelcie Lanier each scored 14 points apiece. Stevenson also hauled in 10 rebounds to complete a double-double, while Savannah Blair added in 11 points of her own to support East Oktibbeha's cause.
Brooks said it has been his goal all season to get everyone putting points on the board, especially since his team doesn't have anyone that is a major scoring threat from the outside.
"That's what we've been shooting for all year is balanced scoring," said Brooks. "We don't take a lot of three-point shots. I've told the girls that if one of them can beat me from three-point range, they can take all the three-pointers they want, but we don't have anybody that can outshoot me from three-point range and I'm 49-years-old."
Outside of the offense, the Lady Titans defense also shined, allowing just eight total points in the first half as East Oktibbeha took a 32-8 advantage into the locker room at the intermission.
"The kids moved their feet like they are supposed to," said Brooks. "We still had a few lapses on defense, but the kids are doing better and showing some things we've been working on. This time of year, we're not doing a whole lot of teaching, we're just tweaking a lot of things."
Montgomery County, who fell to 5-11 overall and 3-2 in division play, was able to find a bit of offensive rhythm in the second half, outscoring East Oktibbeha 32-27 over the course of the final two quarters.
The Lady Hornets received most of their production from Tehna Mark, who finished with a game-high 19 points, and Tykesha Purnell, who tallied 13 points.
Still, it wasn't enough to put a damper on the mood of the streaking Lady Titans.
"We still have the second half of our district to go," said Brooks. "But we're in the driver's seat."
East Oktibbeha returns to action on Tuesday with a 6 p.m. home game against Noxapater.
Montgomery County 53,
East Oktibbeha 52
CRAWFORD – East Oktibbeha's Casey Neal missed both of his two free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining as Montgomery County held on to defeat the Titans Saturday.
"I had to keep from having a heart attack on the sideline," said Montgomery County head coach Jeremy Robinson of his feelings in the game's closing moments.
East Oktibbeha fell to 4-16 overall and 1-4 in Class A, Region 5 play.
Montgomery County improved to 6-10 overall and 3-2 in Class A, Region 5 action.
The Titans and Hornets fought neck-and-neck for much of the night before Montgomery County pulled out to a 37-30 advantage shortly after halftime.
East Oktibbeha responded by closing the third quarter on a 9-2 run, sending the game into the final period knotted at 39.
In the fourth quarter, Chris Hunter's three-pointer with just under five minutes to play gave the Titans a 50-46 lead, but East Oktibbeha tallied just two points the rest of the way.
Hunter led the Titans with 15 points while Neal added 13 points for East Oktibbeha.
Shaquille McClain led Montgomery County with 15 points.
East Oktibbeha's loss came just one night after an uplifting 74-55 win at Weir.
While Saturday's result wasn't as positive, Robinson indicated he believes there is a bright future ahead for the Titans.
"That team right there has promise," Robinson of East Oktibbeha. "They are a young team and they'll do better."
The Titans return to the court on Tuesday, hosting Noxapater.