Wildcats turned back by Tigers

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

Jan. 23, 2008 - With only six games remaining in the District 11-4A basketball season, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats needed a victory over the Texas High Tigers for a chance at a playoff berth.

The defense of the Tigers forced 24 SSHS turnovers as Texas High picked up its first district win in a 67-59 victory over the Wildcats Tuesday night to keep Sulphur Springs winless in district play.

"I am proud of my guys tonight," said SSHS head coach Braughn Curtis. "We did not come up with the win, but I told them a story about me playing football with Coach Gaines and he said, 'There are no moral victories. You played hard, you did everything you needed to do, but there are no moral victories.' I am proud of them and I want my guys to understand that we are not going to give up and turn it in just because our record doesn't show what we want."

Sulphur Springs (14-13, 0-4) has now lost six straight and 11 of their last 14 games dating back to a 56-54 victory over McKinney Boyd in the Wills Point tournament in early December.

"We still have lots of games to play, and we are going to put the best guys out on the floor that are playing hard and doing what I am asking them to do," the coach said. "I was proud of them tonight."

Junior Jonathan Lee had the best game of his high school career with a game-high 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. Classmate Anthony Mills added 13 points and four rebounds off of the bench.

"What did I tell you about Jonathan Lee? The kid is awesome and he does everything I ask him to do and then some," Curtis said. "You put him in a situation where he hasn't practiced in a while and he says, 'Yes, sir, I will do it.' That is what I want players to catch on to, and I think we are starting to do that. Tonight is a good building point for us.

"Mills was the glue that held us together tonight. He was making plays early on with Lee, and it was a good night for Mills and Lee. I think they decided that they were going to play, and they had some fight in them and I like that."

Lee went 5-for-5 in the first quarter as the Wildcats trailed 16-13 heading into the second quarter. Texas High held an 11-4 lead with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter as Kerry Manning had eight points during the run. He finished with a team-high 19 points, two rebounds and two assists.

In the second quarter, the Tigers held a 28-18 lead before the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run on free throws by Mills and Dial, a 3-pointer from Rashad Hall and an offensive putback from Mills with 2:18 remaining.

SSHS continued to battle in the third but could not get their second lead of the game as Mills opened up the second half with a jumper off an assist from senior Andrew Panter for a 32-31 deficit. Ricardo Pierce then gave T-High a 37-31 lead with six unanswered points over the next 90 seconds.

Down 46-41 heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats looked like they would make a game out of it, but the Tigers outscored SSHS, 21-15, in the final eight minutes.

Texas High shot 26-of-49 from the field (53.1 percent) compared to 23-of-56 for the Wildcats (41.1 percent). The Tigers shot 6-of-12 from 3-point range, while SSHS shot 2-of-11 from behind the arc. SSHS outrebounded T-High 39-25, with a 18-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

SSHS will wrap up the first round of District 11-4A play Friday night when they travel to North Lamar. The freshmen will begin the three-game set at 4:30 p.m., with the junior varsity to follow at 6 p.m., and the varsity scheduled to begin around 7:30 p.m.

"I hope we can have some confidence since we played North Lamar in the Quinlan Ford championship game of that tournament," Curtis said. "Again, we didn't play real well and had a lot of turnovers that game and we tried to press them. They were scoring a lot of easy buckets and you may see a lot of what we did tonight with straight man defense and pressing them when we need to.

"If we can corral (Justin) Collard and keep (Qualon) Fort from totally dominating on the rebounding area, we should be in the game. We just need to fight and keep ourselves in the ballgame."

In the junior varsity game, the Tigers defeated SSHS 73-39 as the Wildcats were led in scoring by Patric Miller. The Tigers defeated the SSHS freshmen 58-29.

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