Thursday, December 20, 2007
Breaking new ground
By BARRY BURLESON
County basketball fans had December 15 marked on their calendars – a date for the history books.
“I’d heard about it for months,” said Tana Miller, coach of the Potts Camp Lady Cardinals. “I believe there was big interest county-wide.”
Marshall Academy and Potts Camp played basketball against each other Saturday night at MA – the first private school versus public school matchup ever in these parts.
And with the gymnasium filled near capacity, the neighbors split – the Potts Camp girls winning 55-36 and the Marshall boys coming out on top 64-61.
“What an atmosphere,” said Craig Dailey, coach of the Marshall teams. “Thanks to all the fans, our administrators and Potts Camp’s administrators for allowing the kids this wonderful opportunity. I hope it can become a Christmas tradition.”
Lady Pats vs. Lady Cards
The Potts Camp girls never trailed en route to their 19-point victory.
Shanekqua Johnson was the sparkplug for Coach Miller’s team. She sped through and around the Lady Patriots’ defense for 15 points and numerous assists.
The Lady Cardinals led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter on Samantha Nance’s putback with 1:15 left.
MA cut it to six early in the second quarter on Emily Burk’s shot from the corner.
But back-to-back baskets from Johnson, including a three, made it 28-14 with 1:42 to go in the half.
The lead was 32-14 at the break.
“Marshall made a little run,” Miller said, “and Shanekqua stepped up and helped us out.”
A lay-up and a free throw by Queen Dean gave the Lady Cardinals a 41-29 lead after three quarters.
But MA did not quit.
Traci Rodgers, who scored 26 of her team’s 36 points, drove the lane with 6:19 to go in the game and cut the deficit to 41-33.
Then Potts Camp turned to its tallest weapon. Kenyotta Jenkins, who had 14 in the game, scored twice on the inside and the visitors were in control for good at 47-33.
“We had a few lapses where we just stood still,” Miller said. “It seemed when Jasmine (Harmon) went back in (after an injury), our intensity picked up. They did a good job keeping Kenyotta under control, but she came through when we needed her.”
Dean was also in double figures for Potts Camp. She scored 12.
“Traci did all she could again against one of the more athletic teams we will face this year,” Dailey said. “Emily hit some big shots, and Regan (Murphy) did a tremendous job on Kenyotta, holding her to 14. Kenyotta has a chance to play Division I. I hope she develops and gets that opportunity. She can play.”
The Lady Cardinals improved to 10-7 overall, and the Lady Patriots’ record went to 14-7.
Patriots versus Cardinals
It was “The Nick Tate Show” in the nightcap. The Marshall guard blistered the nets with 32 points, including five threes, and led his team to the three-point win.
“What a game,” Coach Dailey said. “Nick was Nick. He got hot and was unstoppable at times.”
Brian Smith, coach of the Cardinals, agreed.
“Tate was the difference,” Smith said. “He shot the ball well.”
Three threes in a row, two from Tate, and another from Caleb Byrd gave MA a 33-19 advantage with 2:39 left in the first half. The home team’s lead was 34-23 at the intermission.
Chris Sims’ work in the paint powered Potts Camp in the first half.
Tate was definitely on fire in the third, sinking three threes in the quarter and boosting the Patriots to a 52-38 margin at period’s end.
But the Cardinals, fielding a young team due to loss of three early-season starters, did not die. They made a game of it in the fourth. Lavonte Richmond and JaVaughn Jones, two ninth graders, sparked the rally. Jones’ three cut it to 10 midway through the fourth. Back-to-back baskets from Richmond sliced it to 58-52 with 3:21 left. Then another three from Jones got Potts Camp to within two, 58-56, with 2:41 left.
But free throws from Tate and Gene Alexin iced it for MA down the stretch.
“I was proud of my kids,” Coach Smith said. “It was a tough situation for us with the adversity we’ve been facing. A lesser group of men would have easily folded. With a break or two, we could have gotten out of there with the win.
“In the fourth quarter, we were led back by freshmen. We scratched and fought our way back in it. I like this group I have – a lot of good, young players.”
Alexin added 14 points for the Patriots.
Top scorers for the Cards were Johnathan Falkner, Sims and Richmond with 13 each. Jeremy Siggers added 11.
MA was 12 of 17 from the free-throw stripe.
“Gene had a solid game penetrating the middle and either finishing or setting up his teammates,” Dailey said.
“Potts Camp’s big man (Sims) made any penetration in the middle tough.
“Tyler (Sanders) and Caleb hit some huge shots and defended well. Brent (Adams) did yeoman’s work in the middle against Sims. Sims is a tremendous player.”
The Patriots improved to 13-1 overall,while the Cardinals went to 9-8.
Potts Camp teams visited H.W. Byers Tuesday night before breaking for the holidays. The boys will play in the North Pontotoc Classic January 5 and then the Cardinals and Lady Cardinals will host Byhalia January 8.
Marshall Academy teams will play in the University Christian Tournament December 27-29. The Patriots and Lady Patriots will play Leake Academy in round one. They will play in the Jackson Academy Tournament January 2-5.
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