The Houston Hilltoppers’ Jan. 3 match with Okolona was close from the tip-off to the buzzer, with the Houston boys coming up just shy of their goal.
Caleb Morgan’s tip went to J.J. Brownlee for a deuce but Devin Snow’s free throws on the other end matched it and the Toppers and Chiefs kept the game tied and low-scoring through the first quarter.
The Toppers finally got an edge with Brownlee’s free throw to put them up, 6-5, at the end of the period.
Both teams picked up the pace a little in the second period with Brownlee again giving the Toppers’ an advantage with a deuce, but Okolona’s Cyrus Kyles took a steal in for a bucket and followed up with a trey to put the Okolona boys on top. The Toppers came back with Chase Eldridge’s putback and Jay Jay Jones free throws to tie but the Chiefs gained a five-point advantage to lead 20-15 at the break.
Both teams increased their tempos in the second half but kept things close with the Chieftains coming out ahead on a 57-51 win.
Houston coach Orlando Randle was not displeased with the effort on the floor but does want his team to learn to close the door.
“We’ve got to learn how to finish, but we’re young and gaining every day,” Randle said.
Lady Toppers shut down Lady Chiefs
In the girl’s game, the Lady Toppers owned the floor all four periods posting a 36-14 lead at the half.
The Lady Chiefs opened the second half with A’Nieger Walker’s deuce but Houston’s Amber Frison matched it with a steal to the goal and Davianna Pulliam’s trey helped the Houston girls to a 51-18 lead at the close of the third.
Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the final period until Houston’s Janeisha McGregory hit from the corner and Okolona’s Del’gee Hicks picked up a hoop and harm for three, but the Lady Toppers took over again. Laneia Williams got a rebound and putback and Victoria Gathings hit a turn-around jumper to add to the scoreboard.
The Lady Chiefs didn’t give up with Walker snagging a rebound and dishing to Hicks who faked a shot and passed to Breanna Griffin in the post for the bucket, but the Lady Toppers were just too fast and too accurate for the Okolona girls to keep up. Eight-grader, Danielle Tribbett, sealed the 65-23 Houston win with the last goal of the night and made it a good one with a trey.
Houston coach Vernessa Gates had the opportunity to make some substitutions that she feels will be beneficial for the future.
“We got some of our younger girls in,” Gates said. “Everybody is contributing.”