3 1/2 Quarters: Wildcats control T-High until the very end

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 10, 2008 - TEXARKANA - For 3 1/2 quarters Friday Night, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats were in the driver's seat against the Texas High Tigers as they went for their first district win at the Tiger Center.

But midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers (11-14, 2-7) tied the game on a 3-pointer by K.J. Jackson and took their first lead of the game with 2:56 remaining on a coast-to-coast layup by Jackson for a 58-56 lead that Texas High turned into a 69-61 victory.

"We are a very inexperienced varsity team right now, and if we can understand how to take care of the ball, then we are going to be very tough to beat," said SSHS first-year coach Braughn Curtis. "Just like tonight, we didn't give the game away, but we couldn't finish at a time when we needed to make plays."

With the loss, the Wildcats (14-18, 0-8) sit alone in the District 11-4A cellar with one game remaining in the regular season. The Wildcats will host North Lamar at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday as Andrew Panter, Joseph McCann and Kaylon Page play their final game at Wildcat Gym.

"It would be big to get a win for them, and I want them three to go away feeling good about themselves," Curtis said in regards to Senior Night. "Win or lose, I think those three played an affect on the team for the positive. They came to work every day and they tried to improve their game and listen to us every day. They were good team players and an asset to our team. I hope we can get a win for them."

With the regular season ending Tuesday night, the District 11-4A teams have been set for the playoffs as Paris won the district title, followed by Mount Pleasant and Lindale.

Junior Colton Nash led the way for the Wildcats with a double-double of 19 points, 16 rebounds and one blocked shot, while Kedrick Dial had 11 points, nine rebounds and one steal. Bryant "Day Day" Jackson added 11 points and two rebounds off the bench, while Jonathan Lee had another strong game with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.

"I am proud of Colton, and he is starting to learn how to play good basketball," the coach said. "If he can continue to improve and be our team leader then he has a lot of room to improve. I think if we can push him to improve, then we will be all right next season."

In the first half, the Wildcats came out and stunned Texas High from the opening tip as they jumped out to a 12-2 lead after the first quarter and a 33-23 lead heading into the locker room.

The Wildcat defense held T-High to only 1-of-16 shooting from the field in the first quarter as Phillip Tolliver drained a jumper with 4:10 remaining. SSHS then went on a 6-0 run the remainder of the quarter as Lee scored three points, while Andrew Panter hit the back end of two free throws and Joseph McCann nailed a jumper in the lane with 31 seconds remaining.

"It felt good especially with some of the guys in there that haven't started a lot this season," Curtis said about the first-quarter lead. "They did a really good job running our stuff and being patient and getting the shots that we wanted tonight."

The second quarter was another story for the Wildcats as they gave up five consecutive 3-pointers to Texas High junior Jordan Davis - who finished the game with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field.

With 4:50 remaining in the half, Sulphur Springs had its biggest lead of the game at 22-8 as Dial hit the back end of two free throws. After that, the Tigers went on a 15-10 run for the 33-23 deficit at the half.

In the second half, the Wildcats continued to hold on to their lead as Nash scored nine of the team's 18 points in the third quarter, including the last five points of the period, for a 51-42 lead.

Tiger senior Kerry Manning countered with 10 points in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 19 points, four steals and two assists. Manning cut the Wildcats lead to 46-42 with 2:10 remaining in the third on a steal and layup.

SSHS shot 24-of-48 from the field (50 percent), compared to 22-of-60 (36.7) for the Tigers. The Wildcats also dominated the glass as they held a 41-28 advantage with a 14-12 deficit on the offensive glass. Texas High had a 15-1 advantage in steals as Sulphur Springs committed 20 turnovers to only nine for Texas High.

"We are still having a problem with fundamentals and our weak side defense," the coach said. "We are not staying focused on the weak side, and they did not do a good job of that tonight. I thought we played good defense overall and we shut down a lot of their bread-and-butter plays and they had to resort to the shot. To their credit, they were able to knock them down tonight."

In the junior varsity game, the Tigers defeated SSHS, 69-47, as Patric Miller scored 14 points while Jesse Vasquez added 13 points. In the freshmen game, Texas High won 72-43 led by Kaylon Alexander with 18 points and Alvin Frazier with 13 points.

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