The East Poinsett County Lady Warriors watched a 14 point lead slip away in the third quarter, but pulled things together and went on to a convincing 66-49 victory over the Riverside Lady Rebels in first round action of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament Wednesday night at Manila.
The Lady Warriors jumped to a 17-5 lead after the first quarter, and stretched the margin to 14 before the Lady Rebels rallied behind a suffocating press to pull within 27-23 at the half. EPC had trouble getting the ball up the court in the second quarter, and finished with 15 first half turnovers.
Riverside finally forged a 31-31 tie midway through the third quarter before EPC closed the period with a 10-2 run to take a 41-33 lead into the final frame. The Lady Warriors then began to solve the Rebel press for some easy transition baskets as they expanded their lead and finished off the Lady Rebels' tournament title aspirations.
"You can't go for a six minute stretch without scoring," said Riverside Lady Rebel Coach Greg Rainwater. "It's not a good combination when you don't score and you don't play hard. We just don't play hard all the time. They (EPC) shot lay-ups all night and we struggled just to get off a shot. We had to work for every shot we got, but you have to give EPC credit for that."
Rainwater was frustrated that his team only put one solid quarter together. "Typically, on a given night, we play three quarters," continued Rainwater. "And tonight we only played one, and that was the second quarter. That causes you to get beat. We played one good quarter and unbelievably still had a chance to win the game. That is a shame. We are a better team than that. The one bright spot we had was Natasha Coffey, who attacked the boards good and drew some fouls,( concluded Rainwater, whose team fell to 5-7 on the year.
"Our defense slowed down and we started missing our shots, which caused us to lose a 14 point lead in the first half," said East Poinsett County Coach Bobby Lewallen. "They (Riverside) went on a run on us and I was just glad we were able to pull the game out. We turned the ball over too much in the first half, with 15 turnovers, but cut that down to only five in the second half. I told the girls at half, if they wanted to win, they would have to cut down on the turnovers and block out on the boards. We did a lot better job in the second half, and that was the difference," said Lewallen, whose team improved to 3-1 on the year.
"We got great play from our bench," continued Lewallen. "Samantha King scored 17 points off the bench for the second straight game, while Alisha Gilmer added nine. We are fortunate to have two players like that who can come in and give us points."
Riverside placed two players in double figures, with Samantha Dunigan scoring 11 and Emilee Hook adding 10. Ashley Foster scored nine, Natasha Coffey and Amanda Milligan netted eight points apiece, while Miranda Boyd added two and Marisa Johnson chipped in one. The Lady Rebels were 18-29 at the free throw stripe, and hit three treys on the night.
EPC placed three players in double figures, led by King's 17. Sade Madden scored 13 and Lauren Hale added 11. Gilmer had nine, Holly Hinton scored six, while Jessica Ross and Lauren Turner added five points apiece. The Lady Warriors were 21-33 at the free throw line, and also nailed three treys on the night.
Riverside will return to action on Monday as they travel to Brookland for a non-conference matchup with the Lady Bearcats. The Rebels will host Piggott at Lake City on Thursday in a 3AA North Conference tilt.