The Lady Toppers continued to play positive against the Lady Chieftains of Okolona Dec. 10 on the road.
The Lady Toppers led 32-8 going into the halftime break, but the second half started slow with multiple turnovers from both teams.
Okolona’s Breanna Griffin got the second-half scoring started, sinking two from the charity stripe with Ashley Conner matching her on the other side of the floor.
That set the tone for the early minutes of the second half. Okolona’s Tatyana Buchanan hit a deuce and Houston’s Victoria Gathings returned the favor for the Lady Toppers, but the Houston girls got their rhythm back as Candace Woodhouse hit from the line, Tori Ford got a steal and foul for a free throw and Amber Frison hit a bucket to give the Lady Toppers a 41-14 lead.
The fourth quarter opened slow as well with no score for the first five minutes until Griffin got a rebound and putback for the Lady Chiefs, but the Lady Toppers controlled the ball and the floor for the final minutes and took the 45-16 win.
Houston coach Vernessa Gates is pleased with the strong start to the season, but is still urging her team to clean up errors before division play.
“There are still areas that we, as a team, need to improve on before entering district play,” Gates said.
One of the most improved areas from recent years is a balanced shooting floor.
“It’s been nice not to have to depend upon one player every game to be productive in order to win,” Gates said.
The Lady Toppers capped their week with a 46-28 win over the Lady Wildcats of Houlka to move them to 8-2 on the regular season, “the best record, at this point in the season, that the ladies have had in the past three years,” Gates said.
Chiefs hold off Toppers
The boy’s game started as county rivalries usually do – fast-paced and aggressive – with each team trading an opening shot and Okolona’s Zack Stevens getting a free throw for a 3-2 lead. Demario Seals added two from the line and Cyrus Kyles took a steal to the hole to put the Chieftains up 7-2 in the first minutes of the game.
Houston’s J.J.Brownlee got a steal but the pass was intercepted by Okolona’s Jacolbi Heard who layed it in and the Chiefs went up 13-6 in the first quarter.
The Toppers battled back with Jay Jay Jones hitting a trey and dishing to Javan Farr for a duece to end the quarter at 11-13.
The battle rocked back and forth through the second with the Toppers tying at 22-all off Caleb Morgan’s rebound for a deuce, but the Chiefs turned things up a notch as Kyles got a deuce and drew a foul. Although he missed the front end of a one-and-one, Joseph Fields got the rebound and dished back to Kyles for another bucket and the Chiefs led 36-28 at the half and finished ahead at 63-59.
The Toppers changed their luck against Houlka Friday night, taking a 46-39 win over the Wildcats in another county rivalry.
“I’m excited for our guys,” said Houston coach Orlando Randle. “I look forward to the challenges ahead and I think the guys are eager to show everyone what they’ve got.”
The Toppers and Lady Toppers were scheduled to play at West Point Tuesday and the boys will head to Calhoun City Saturday for the annual Loggins Tournament. The teams will take a holiday break, but will be back in action the day after Christmas. Both the boy’s and girl’s teams will participate in the McAdams Tournament near Kosciusko Dec. 26.
“We have a lot of games left and I think we will finish strong,” Randle said.