Sulphur Bluff, North Hopkins girls win playoff openers
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 20, 2004 -- PATTONVILLE -- The Bloomburg hangover was nonexistent Tuesday night for the Sulphur Bluff Lady Bears.

After two straight losses last week to Bloomburg to end the regular season, the Lady Bears regrouped in time for the Class 1A, Division I playoff opener, taking an early lead against Dodd City and never trailing en route to a 58-44 win.

The inside tandem of 6-0 Ashley Pettit and 5-11 Jennifer McDonald combined for 30 points and 20 rebounds in leading the Lady Bears (24-4).

"Our momentum was down, and we did a few things to bring the team together," Pettit said, referring to their two late-season losses. "We ate together and had some quality time. It looked like it worked."

Pettit (13 points overall) and McDonald (17 points) scored the team's first 13 points as the Lady Bears took a seven-point lead in the opening period, prevailing even though Dodd City's Kimberly Gibson hit a pair of 3-pointers.

Those were the only long-range shots Dodd City would hit all game as the Lady Bears' perimeter defense of Jill Jaggers, Zandra Messick and Tara Williams controlled the highly-regarded trio of Dodd City guards: Gibson, Jennifer Burpo and Audra James.

James scored a game-high 18, but was just 5-of-23 from the field. The Lady Bears held Dodd City to 17-of-58 shooting (29 percent), while hitting right after 50 percent (25-of-51) themselves.

Sulphur Bluff also won the rebounding battle, 42-31, as McDonald and Pettit each grabbed 10 rebounds and Messick had nine boards and a game-high six assists to go with nine points.

"We were really good tonight," McDonald said. "We worked together. We worked more as a team this time. They had three really good guards, and their post is pretty good. Tonight, we played well as a team."

After taking a 19-12 lead in the first period, the Lady Bears extended it to 30-21 by halftime. Dodd City cut the deficit to five points, 23-18, but Sulphur Bluff answered with a Messick layup, a free throw from Jaggers and a post-up bucket by McDonald to extend the lead back to 10 points.

The Lady Bears were able to keep the lead at nine points heading into the final period as they began breaking the Dodd City press for lay-up buckets by Williams, who finished with seven points and three steals. Jaggers added eight points, six boards, three steals and three assists, and Kaylee Phillips contributed four points and four rebounds.

In the fourth period, Dodd City twice cut the led to five points but, the Lady Bears answered with a bucket each time by breaking the press. They got the lead up to 13 points, 50-37, with five minutes to play, when Williams took a long Messick pass for a layup.

"They finally ran the press break and got some good baskets out of it there and broke it open a little bit," said coach Tim Lane. "They were really focused and excited to get to play. They came out and played well, and I sure am pleased with them."

The Lady Bears next opponent will be Henrietta Midway at a time and place to be determined.

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