By BRANDON SPECK
NEMS Daily Journal
ECRU – Ripley turned up its defense in a battle of ranked teams on Saturday night, topping Itawamba AHS 45-39 in the By His Grace Classic at North Pontotoc.
The Daily Journal’s No. 1-ranked Lady Tigers beat No. 6 IAHS without coach Katie Bates. Bates gave birth to a son, Bo, on Friday. Assistant coach Regina Chills has coached the last two games.
In a close game, Ripley (19-4) found its offense in the third quarter.
“They stepped up the defense and it brought the offense,” Chills said.
Jayla Chills made it 33-25 Ripley and Zaida Cox made a shot at the buzzer for a 37-29 lead going to the fourth.
Sarah Dial’s 3 gave IAHS (14-6) a 19-13 lead late in the first half. Chills scored and had a steal that led to two free throws from Cox to give Ripley a 20-19 lead at the half.
Chills finished with 13 for Ripley. Kim Mallory scored 17 and Quay Dunn 11 for IAHS.
“We’ve got four players that average in double figures. Our team is well-rounded,” Regina Chills said.
Both teams missed their share of free throws in the final quarter, a 10 for 21 combined total. Dunn went inside to cut it to 39-36. Mallory grabbed a missed free throw and scored to trim Ripley’s lead to 42-38 with 17.7 left.
“They played a great pressure defense on us and we didn’t handle it as well as we needed to,” Itawamba coach Amanda Morrow said. “Offensively they have a lot of threats.”