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Tupelo — With his team clinging to a four-point lead over visiting Stringtown with just over four minutes to go, first-year Tupelo girls coach Shawn Reeves shouted, “Go shoot a layup,” while trying to get the Lady Tigers to start running a deliberate, slow-paced offense.
Just moments after those instructions, junior Brittany Sanders buried a 3-pointer that gave Tupelo some much-needed breathing room. The trey helped key a decisive 21-2 game-ending run as the host Lady Tigers pulled away for a 52-33 victory.
“It was a good thing that shot went in. I probably wouldn’t have been very happy if she had missed it,” Reeves said following the game.
Reeves and company started the season at 1-0, while the visiting Lady Tigers left town at 1-1.
In the boys game, junior Corey McCollum — despite battling foul trouble all night — finished with an impressive double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds to help the Tigers sting Stringtown 47-33.
Coach Clay Weller’s team also started 1-0, while the Stringtown boys fell to 1-1.
It was a nice start for McCollum, who looks to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2012-13 season.
“Corey is going to go after the boards. He played well,” Weller said. “After missing last year, he’s excited to play this year.”
Tupelo is back at home Friday, hosting Wanette.
Tupelo 52, Stringtown 33
Amber Crabtree hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter that knotted the score at 31-31 for the fifth time. Up to that point, the biggest lead of the game had been four points.
Sophomore Phyisha Chamberlain scored in the paint for the final points of the third quarter to give Tupelo a slim 33-31 lead heading into the final eight minutes. Chamberlain’s bucket started the huge Tupelo surge.
Sanders followed her trifecta by scoring three the conventional way — hitting a layup, much to Reeves’ delight, and connecting on a free throw that followed that put Tupelo on top 41-31, the first double-digit gap of the game. Sanders would finish her big night with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Sydney Moore hit a jumper for Stringtown to break the Tupelo streak, but the visiting Lady Tigers wouldn’t score again over the final three minutes. Moore led her team’s offense with 12 points to go with nine rebounds.
“The kids played hard. If we keep playing hard like that, we will have a chance to beat some people. It was a good win,” Reeves said.
Chamberlain also registered an impressive double-double with 13 points and 18 rebounds. Tupelo won the battle of the boards 60-36. Hailey Ellis just missed being the third Lady Tiger with a double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds to go with eight points and a game-high six steals.
Despite having 11 total steals, Tupelo had more turnovers (19) than Stringtown (13).
Tupelo 47, Stringtown 33
Weller’s halftime speech must have worked, as Tupelo outscored Stringtown 11-2 to start the third quarter. Tupelo extended a five-point lead at intermission to 29-15 after Ben Meek hit an open 12-footer at the 2:21 mark.
Stringtown standout Zac Couch interrupted that Tupelo streak with a floater in the land at the 2:04 mark. It was his first points since scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter. He would miss eight of his last 10 field goal attempts but still led the SHS offense with 13 points.
McCollum picked up his fourth foul with 6:18 left in the game and was sent to the bench. Tupelo went into a mini-drought that started after John Umstead hit a 3-pointer at the 1:02 mark of the third quarter and ended when Meek hit a short jumper with 2:42 to play that put the host Tigers ahead 34-23.
Stringtown got within seven at 38-31 after Bailey King swished a 3-pointer with 1:07 left, but Tupelo went 9-of-10 from the line in the final 44 seconds — including a 5-of-6 showing by Umstead — to keep the visitors at bay. Umstead would contribute 12 points and six rebounds to the win.
Tupelo made 17-of-21 (81 percent) free throws overall, compared to a 1-for-4 showing by Stringtown.
It was a 22-11 scoring edge over the middle two quarters that turned the tide for Tupelo.
“When you’re not hitting shots, you have to play good defense, and I thought we played pretty good defense the whole game,” Weller said. “It was a good win for the first game.”
Chisum Henry also reached double digits for the hometown Tigers with 13 points.
Tupelo outrebounded Stringtown 39-29.