North Lamar dials up pressure in win over Lady Cats
By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor
Jan. 9, 2008 - PARIS - The North Lamar Pantherettes held the district title for two years before relinquishing it last season to Mount Pleasant. It looks like the Pantherettes are steadfast in their resolve to get it back.
North Lamar, ranked No. 12 in the latest TABC poll, held the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats in check with a three-quarter court press that fueled a 45-30 victory on Tuesday.
North Lamar (20-5 overall, 2-0 in District 11-4A) forced 24 SSHS turnovers and scored 25 points on the ensuing possessions. Ashley Endsley led the Pantherettes in scoring with 15 points, while Chelsie Shackelford scored 12 points and came up with five steals. Ali Stone also had five steals to go with seven points.
The Pantherettes took a 13-2 lead six-and-a-half minutes into the game and their lead never got below five points after that as they challenged virtually every possession by the Lady Cats (9-12, 1-1).
"It's hard to simulate that kind of press in practice," said SSHS head coach Tina Carrillo. "We have drills, but it doesn't reach the amount of pressure they put on us with their athleticism and long arms and quickness. I think before we really got it down pat, it was too late.
"Their press is like trying to go through a row of butcher knives. It's like the middle age gauntlet. You have to try to find a hole every now and then."
SSHS junior guard Mackenzie Cross and senior forward Stephanie Conley each had eight points and two steals. Conley also had 11 rebounds and Cross had three assists.
But, the Lady Cats played from behind the entire game. North Lamar's Endsley scored on North Lamar's second possession, and the lead quickly reached double digits, with a short jumper by Cross as Sulphur Springs' only points through the first seven minutes.
SSHS sophomore Stefanie Pruitt knocked down a 3-pointer with a minute to go in the first quarter and hit another one less than two minutes into the second period. But, NL head coach Roy Tom Stone immediately called a time out, and the Lady Cats' open looks from beyond the arc dried up. They hit one more three the remainder of the game, and that came from senior Jessica Savage who was well behind the line.
North Lamar hit just one 3-pointer the entire game - Endsley's long range jumper gave the Pantherettes a 33-18 lead with 1:45 to go in the half - but succeeded in getting open underneath on back door cuts and precise passes in their half-court offense.
"Our game plan was to really pack it in and make them shoot from the outside, but once they got an eight- or 10-point lead, they pulled it out and made us play man-to-man," Carrillo said. "They run really good man-to-man offenses, I mean they run them perfect."
The Lady Cats had a chance to make a dent in North Lamar's 19-point lead in the second half, but missed 8-of-9 free throws.
Sulphur Springs was down by nine points (24-15) at halftime, but North Lamar went on an 11-1 run that covered four minutes and wasn't broken until Conley made a low-post basket off an assist from Pruitt with five seconds left in the quarter to make the score 37-20.
Sulphur Springs cut the deficit below 15 points once in the fourth quarter as consecutive steals and layups by Starkeisha Wright and Cross made the score 43-30 with 80 seconds remaining.
"We made some careless errors, but our girls played as hard as they could," Carrillo said. "Sometimes we just didn't play very smart, but we played hard."
North Lamar finished the contest with 18 more field goal attempts than Sulphur Springs (50-32), partly because of the 10 fewer turnovers. NL shot 44 percent from the field (22-of-50) while Sulphur Springs made 31 percent (13-of-32).
The Lady Cats will get back in action on Friday when they travel to Mount Pleasant (17-5, 2-0) to take on the defending district champions. The three-game set starts at 4:30 p.m. with the freshmen.
SSHS 35, North Lamar 32
SSHS' Melanie Hudson scored the Lady Cats' final six points as they overcame a three-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Hudson finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Sulphur Springs improved to 18-5 on the season, 2-0 in District 11-4A.
JaMonica Hall scored 12 points and came up with four steals, Talea Reynolds added seven points and four rebounds, and Linsey Fouse had four points. Jamie Askins put in two points and had three assists.
SSHS 22, North Lamar 8
The Lady Cats used a full-court press to overcome an early North Lamar lead. Caitlyn Nix led the team in scoring with eight points, while Frankeisha Hawkins and Bre Edwards scored four points each.
Bradyn Burney, Kyri Ivery and Megan Massey each contributed two points for the Lady Cats (5-14, 1-1).