North Hopkins falls in area round

By JIMMY ROGERS | News-Telegram Correspondent

Feb. 17, 2007 - QUITMAN - With 4:59 left in the game Friday, only two points separated the District 18-A, Division I champion North Hopkins Lady Panthers and the state ranked, District 19-A second-place LaPoynor Lady Flyers as each sought to take the next step in the playoffs.

In those final minutes, the Lady Panthers (17-14) could only muster two free throws while LaPoynor (25-6) hit 10 free throws and two buckets to give the Lady Flyers a 53-38 victory and the area win at Quitman High School gym.

�They did exactly what we had scouted,� stated disappointed North Hopkins coach Tim Menke. �We had practiced all this stuff for a week, but we just did not execute. What is disappointing is, we did not execute a lick on offense for three quarters and we were still right there.

"We had our chances all night, but we can't get it done offensively. When we start off shaky, sometimes we never get out of that. It doesn't matter what we do, we called timeouts in the first half and tried to settle them down. We tried to settle them down at halftime. It just never seemed to happen.”

The game started slowly with both teams struggling to control the ball and missing easy shots. Wild passes and playoff jitters dominated the first quarter and much of the second.

�We were just making a lot of unnecessary turnovers in the first half,� which Menke said, �prevented any kind of flow.�

From the start, the game turned physical with both teams thwarting the others passes and shots. LaPoynor got into early foul trouble, which kept it from going to its full court press, said LaPoynor head coach Ronnie Dunn.

Jessie Mannis put North Hopkins on the board first with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 4:20 showing on the first quarter clock. The first quarter ended with North Hopkins leading 7-6.

LaPoynor outscored the Lady Panthers 8-7 in the second period and held an 18-14 lead at the half.

�In the second half, I felt that we had some fouls to give, so we went to the press and that gave us confidence and some easy buckets,� Dunn explained after the game.

Two LaPoynor players, senior post Jasmine Clark and junior guard Cami Penney finally found the bucket in the second half. North Hopkins defense had shut both starters out in the first half but in the second, Clark contributed 10 and Penney five to aid the win.

�We were just hanging around and hanging around," Dunn explained. "I noticed they were not very deep; they didn't sub a whole lot. We had a larger bench and we just wore them down at the end. It came down to free throws and we made ours.�

LaPoynor's Jessica Field came off the bench to lead Lady Flyer scoring with 15.

Menke praised his team's defensive play, “I thought we played good defense tonight. We gave up some inside baskets in the beginning of the fourth period that hurt us and we missed a few blockouts that hurt us but overall, I was happy with the defensive effort. Offense was a problem for us this year.”

Ebbonye Johnson was the only Lady Panther in double figures scoring 16 during the evening. Sabra Thomas, who had averaged 17 points per game in a four-game span near the end of district play, was held to only six points Friday night.

Menke summarized the Lady Panther season by saying, “We have been in the playoffs every year with this group of kids and that's what's disappointing. I am proud of this team. They started off the season really rough and they got a lot better during the season. I'm disappointed in tonight but I'm not disappointed in the season as a whole.

"I thought we accomplished a lot of things. I don't think anyone thought we would be in the playoffs during the year or if we did, we would only be a three-seed or so. That was encouraging. Our practices were good until the end of the season.”

The Lady Panthers won their final eight games of district play and earned the first place seed by overcoming an 11-point deficit defeating co-district champion Quinlan Boles.

LaPoynor advances to the regional quarterfinals to face Mount Enterprise, a 54-44 winner over Yantis on Friday.

North Hopkins - Ebbonye Johnson 16, Sabra Thomas 6, Jessi Mannis 5, Courtney Loper 4, Cayla Newkirk 4, Tana Hall 2, Megan Lehr 1.

LaPoynor - Jessica Field 15, Jasmine Clark 10, Kaela Sponer 7, Cami Penney 5, Kaylyn Tarrant 5, Kinsey Mascorro 4, Stephanie Hutchins 4, Chelsea Saxon 3.

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