Pittsburg puts the ball in (W)right hands

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

Jan. 9, 2008 - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats would like to forget about Pittsburg senior guard Kendall Wright.

Wright scored a game-high 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field to go along with six steals, four assists, four rebounds and one block as the No. 6-ranked Pirates defeated SSHS, 67-61, Tuesday in the Wildcats' final non-district game at Wildcat Gym.

The Wildcats turned the ball over 27 times and shot 19-of-30 (63.3 percent) from the free throw line in the game.

"That was the story of the game, and that is what I told my guys in the locker room," said SSHS head coach Braughn Curtis. "We have a six-point ballgame and it was a miracle that it was even that close with 27 turnovers. It is very disappointing when you work on this stuff all the time and we do the same stuff that they were doing to us in practice.

"We shot better from the line tonight, but we didn't shoot great because we are missing easy free throws and you should be able to make all of them."

SSHS (14-9) was led by junior post Colton Nash with 22 points, eight rebounds, two steals and one assist, while teammate Bryant "Day Day" Jackson had 12 points, four rebounds and one steal. Junior Tyrik Rollison had 10 points, four steals, four assists and one rebound.

With the pressure defense of the Pirates throughout the game, Sulphur Springs found ways to stay close and led twice during the first quarter at 4-3 on an offensive putback by Jackson and at 8-6 on a jumper by Rollison.

After those leads, the Pirates relied on Wright as he scored 11 of his 33 points in the first half on 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range in the first half. He gave them a 20-16 lead with 3:46 remaining in the second quarter on a 3-pointer.

SSHS was able to hold the deficit at four points at the half as Rollison found a spark and nailed back-to-back jumpers in the final minute for a 28-24 deficit.

In the third period, Rollison continued his strong shooting and drained a jumper to get SSHS to within 28-26, but then Rollison missed two free throws on their next possession as he went 0-of-6 from the charity stripe in the game.

Wright made a highlight reel dunk with 6:32 remaining in the third quarter as teammate Carlos Brown came up with a steal and threw the ball to Wright for the fast break dunk and a 32-26 lead.

"I think the pressure they were applying was causing us to turn the ball over," Curtis said. "Some of the turnovers happened because we were not thinking about what we were doing, and I keep comparing it to a lot of the teams that we press."

SSHS continued to battle through the pressure defense of the Pirates and cut the lead back to 35-33 as Nash scored back-to-back buckets. The Wildcats were able to tie the game at 37-37 on two free throws by Kedrick Dial before Pittsburg went on an 8-0 run to take control of the game.

Pittsburg (12-6) took a 52-41 lead into the fourth quarter as Wright nailed a jumper and scored 15 points in the third quarter.

The Wildcats outscored Pittsburg 20-15 in the fourth quarter but could not find ways to get closer than six points as Pittsburg held that margin four times during the quarter.

SSHS finished the game shooting 21-of-44 (47.7 percent) from the field, compared to 24-of-53 (45.3 percent) for the Pirates. They also held a 42-24 advantage on the boards, and Pittsburg held a 20-12 advantage in steals and a 12-10 advantage in assists.

"I don't know if it the game level intensity or what it is but we turn the ball over way too much," Curtis said. "We have got to stop turning it over in order to win big ballgames."

The Wildcats will open District 11-4A play Friday night against the Mount Pleasant Tigers at Wildcat Gym. This will be a three-game set with the varsity scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

"I hope to see a different team on Friday," the coach said. "We need to try and forget about all of the bad stuff that we have done and think about the good things and hope those guys really believe in winning."

In the junior varsity game, the Wildcats held a 23-20 lead at the half and defeated Pittsburg 42-32 at Wildcat Gym. Jesse Vasquez was the leading scorer with 17 points.

In freshman action, the Wildcats held a 18-13 lead at the half but Pittsburg came back in the second half for a 29-27 win. Kaylon Alexander was the team's leading scorer with nine points.

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