Lady Cats climb out of early hole to claim 15th win
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Dec. 29, 2006 - QUITMAN - The Sulphur Springs Lady Cats got down early to New Boston on Thursday, but it didn't take them long for them to climb back on top.

The Lady Cats fell into a 7-0 hole just 140 seconds into their first round game at Quitman's Gene Deere/W.T. Black Holiday Tournament. They held the Lady Lions to just 21 points over the final 30 minutes, however, to take a 47-28 victory.

The win moved them into a semifinal game against Winona, ranked No. 8 in Class 2A, at 3:30 p.m. today. If they win, they will play in the tournament's championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday; a loss will send them to the third-place contest at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Lady Cats improved their record to 15-3 by knocking down five 3-pointers and getting a 21-point, 13-rebound effort from junior post Starkeisha Wright. They held New Boston (7-7) to just 26 percent shooting (10-of-38) from the field and forced 23 turnovers.

It was the first game for both teams since taking at least five days off for the Christmas break.

"I was proud that coming off the break that we were able to maintain our intensity on defense like we did," said SSHS head coach Tina Carrillo. "As far as running our press properly mechanically, I don't think we did that.

"The intensity alone that we showed was enough to cause New Boston turnovers."

New Boston's Becca Collom hit a 3-pointer to open the game's scoring and finished with 11 points and five blocked shots, but Sulphur Springs took its first lead of the game (9-7) with 2:30 left in the first quarter when junior Jessica Savage buried a 3-pointer. Savage finished with six points and five steals.

Sophomore guard Mackenzie Cross was a big part of the Lady Cats' first quarter, scoring six points on a pull-up jumper in the lane and two fast break buckets off of steals as SSHS ended the initial period with an 11-8 advantage. Cross totaled seven points, four steals and six boards.

"This team I had today did not fold when we got down early," Carrillo said. "As far as the expression on their faces, there was no panic. They kept their composure on offense, worked the ball around and chose their shots.

"When they were in a zone, our outside shooters were hitting, which forced them into a man, then we were able to go inside. That balance is the sign of a good team."

Wright scored just six of her 21 points in the first half when New Boston was mostly in a zone defense. However, Savage hit a pair of 3-pointers and Shardae Jones and Stephanie Pruitt each contributed a long-range shot as the Lady Cats took a 24-14 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, Wright got going, scoring 10 points in the paint as Cross and Jamonica Hall each had a pair of assists to her in the period. That helped the Lady Cats to a 39-25 lead heading into the final period.

Wright scored five of the team's eight points in the final quarter, but it was the Lady Cats' defense over the final two periods that provided the difference. New Boston had just one field goal in the final 10 minutes and went almost eight minutes without making a shot from the field.

However, Carrillo said the offensive mindset of protecting the ball was the key.

"I was more proud of our efforts offensively because we limited our turnovers to 12," she said.

The Lady Cats hit 19-of-59 shots from the field (35 percent) including 5-of-17 from beyond the 3-point arc. They out-rebounded New Boston 36-34.

Now, they must turn their attention to Winona (16-3) if they are to extend their winning streak to eight games.

"We're going to have to run our press right against skilled teams," Carrillo explained. "The skill level of Winona will be different than the skill level of New Boston."

Notes: Quitman and White Oak will be playing in the other tournament semifinal at 6:30 p.m. today. ... Following the tournament, the Lady Cats have one more non-district game (Jan. 2 against Royse City) before District 11-4A play begins on Jan. 5 at Texas High. ... The SSHS freshmen and JV were scheduled to play in Commerce today.

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