Lady Cats improve to 12-3 with win over Quitman
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Dec. 12, 2006 - It took a while for the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats to find their defensive energy on Monday, but when they did, it came at just the right time.

The Lady Cats held Quitman without a field goal for the final nine minutes of the game, and Jessica Savage and Stephanie Conley each came up with a key steal in overtime to give Sulphur Springs a 44-40 victory.

It was the second time SSHS and Quitman met this year and each time the game into overtime with the home team winning by four points. Who knows how long they would play if they met on a neutral court.

"Last time, we were walking away with long faces," said SSHS head coach Tina Carrillo. "This time, we were on our home court and we were able to give our fan base something to smile about."

The Lady Cats were all smiles after the game as they improved their record to 12-3 by outscoring Quitman 4-0 in the four-minute overtime period.

The overtime was scoreless for almost three minutes before Savage cut into the passing lane near midcourt and stole a Quitman pass. She was fouled as she drove in for a lay-up with 1:09 to play and made both free throws to give SSHS a 42-40 advantage - only their third lead of the game.

Conley then stole the ball on Quitman's next possession. Though the Lady Cats weren't able to turn that into points, they did run the clock down to 10 seconds before Quitman could foul them three times to send them into the bonus.

Junior forward Starkeisha Wright, who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, added two free throws with nine seconds remaining to seal the victory. Wright continued her stellar play, scoring in double figures for the fifth consecutive game by hitting 10-of-17 shots from the field.

"Starkeisha, we're seeing her play superb," Carrillo said. "Offensively, she's hard to stop right now. It's good to see her having another great game, another double-double. She's playing well for us, and she carried us tonight offensively."

Playing their seventh game in six days, the Lady Cats had a reason to be sluggish at the start. Junior Stephanie Conley grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback basket that gave them a 4-3 lead three minutes into the game. They didn't lead again until the end of the third period.

They were kept alive by Wright and by holding Quitman star point guard Shadawndra McNeal to 12 points, four steals and four assists.

Sulphur Springs fell behind by as many as nine points early, but tied the game at 17-17 midway through the second quarter on seven straight points started by a Wright bucket, followed by a putback from Cresha Hubbard and then a Savage 3-pointer. Hubbard finished with four points and three assists, while Savage had five points, four rebounds and three steals.

In the third quarter, the Lady Cats tied the game at 27-27 on a steal and bucket from senior Emily Bouyear, then went ahead on a jumper by Mackenzie Cross with 25 seconds remaining. Bouyear and Cross both scored five points. Cross also had four assists, three steals and three rebounds.

In the fourth quarter, the Lady Cats held Quitman to one point over the final 4:42 of regulation, while SSHS didn't score after Wright tied the game at 40-40 with 2:42 left on a jump hook.

"We still need to work on our situations at the end of the game, but a win's a win," Carrillo said. "We came out sluggish. We didn't come out with our full tenacity on defense, and it showed in the score. We weren't getting easy baskets. Late in the game, and especially in overtime, I saw a little bit of that tenacity.

"When we had to make the big plays we did, and we turned up the heat on defense."

SSHS Subvarsity 44, Quitman 23

The Sulphur Springs JV and freshmen had to combine for the game since Quitman's freshman team was playing elsewhere.

Stevie Moore scored 17 points and Stephanie Pruitt added 14 to lead the Lady Cats. Moore also had eight rebounds, while Pruitt had nine boards and three steals.

Erika Garrett added two points, two steals and two assists, and Alyssa Burney had seven rebounds and two steals.

For the freshmen, Justine Hatley scored four points, while Daci West added three. Ashanti Ivery led the ninth-graders in rebounds with six.

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