The Tupelo Lady Tigers never saw this coming.
With a showdown with unbeaten and 12th-ranked Stonewall looming on Friday, No. 15 Tupelo failed to take care of business Tuesday night against Vanoss.
The Lady Wolves got a giant game from Gage Parker and knocked Tupelo from the unbeaten ranks in impressive fashion, handing the host Lady Tigers a stunning 44-34 loss.
Vanoss evened its record at 3-3 on the year while Tupelo slipped to 6-1.
In the boys contest, the Wolves used a big fourth quarter to break open a tight game and turn back the Tigers 50-45.
“Any time you can come over here to Tupelo and get two Ws, you’ve done well,” said Jason Fulks, who pulls double duty at Vanoss as both the girls and boys coach.
Vanoss 44, Tupelo 34
The Lady Tigers never got untracked offensively in the contest and Parker was on fire from start to finish. The Vanoss junior showed off nice moves in the paint, knocked down jumper after jumper and finished with a career-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field. She also hit six of seven charity shots (missing her final attempt) and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds to go with a pair of steals and a handful of assists.
“She stepped up and showed the Gage we know she is,” Fulks said. “She had a good night.”
The beginning of the end for Tupelo came late in the first quarter. With the game knotted at 10-10 with just 1:28 left in the period, Gage scored on the inside, Katie Priest hit two free throws and Beth Brewer knock down a 3-pointer at the buzzer (her only field goal of the game) to give Vanoss a quick 17-10 lead. It was the first time Tupelo had surrendered 17 points in a quarter all season.
Landra Nelson scored via a nifty finger roll basket to start the second period but Vanoss responded by scoring eight of the next 10 points with a Parker fast break bucket giving the visitors a 25-14 advantage.
Chesna Henry scored four of the final five points of the second quarter on a free throw line jumper and a putback with 13.2 seconds left to shave the Tupelo deficit to 25-19 at the break.
But the Lady Tigers hit an even worse cold spell in the third quarter. Tupelo managed just one field goal in the period — a Shanna Davidson jumper on an inbounds play — in 10 tries and Vanoss took advantage by pushing its lead to 33-22 heading into the final eight minutes.
Davidson, who still finished with a team-high 16 points despite offensive struggles throughout the game, hit a long jumper to start the fourth period for Tupelo. But Vanoss put the game away with a 7-0 run — six coming from Parker — to put the game away.
“Tupelo’s a good bunch. I was very impressed by the way we played tonight,” Fulks said.
Priest was also solid for Vanoss, finishing with nine points, six rebounds, four steals and five assists.
“I thought Priest did a good job of feeding (Parker). They really work well together,” Fulks said.
Davidson added eight rebounds and three steals for Tupelo but no other Lady Tiger scored more than six.
Vanoss 50, Tupelo 45
The game was tight through the first 26 minutes.
In fact, after super sub Matt Benedict hit a 3-pointer with 6:32 left in the game to give Tupelo a 35-33, Vanoss heated up.
The Wolves scored the next nine points — starting with a conventional three-point play by Chris Drumgo and ending his strong drive down the baseline for a score — that gave the visitors a 42-35 lead with 4:01 remaining.
A Jakota Carrell jumper and two free throws from Tanner Davis pulled Tupelo within 42-39 at the 2:28 mark, but Ali Gonzalez hit a clutch long jumper and added a free throw sandwiched around another Drumgo basket that made it 47-39 with 53 seconds left.
Tupelo got late 3-pointers from Davis and Benedict (his fifth of the game), but one free throw from Coty Embry and two more from Gonzalez — who scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter — helped keep the Tigers at bay.
Fulks said he was glad to finally see his team consistently make shots in the clutch.
“We started knocking down some shots. That was the big deal. We couldn’t hit the shots in the first half, and that’s been happening to us. But in the fourth quarter we hit some shots,” he said.
Neither team led by more than four throughout the second and third quarters before Vanoss finished the game with a 21-13 run.
“We played pretty good for three quarters, but we just didn’t finish,” said Tupelo coach Clay Weller.
Drumgo and Embry led a balanced Vanoss attack with 13 points apiece while big man Ethan Low added seven points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re starting to learn with this young group. It was a real good road win,” Fulks said.
Benedict’s 16-point effort led the Tupelo attack while Jake Sanders, Davis and HD Bullard all added seven for the hosts. Bullard also had nine rebounds.
Vanoss was scheduled to tangle with Stratford on Friday but that matchup was postpone due to the Bulldogs extended run in the Class A football playoffs. Both Vanoss teams will return to action at next week’s Pontotoc Conference Tournament in Allen.