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Ole Brook girls, Mendenhall boys claim division lead

MENDENHALL — With the Division 6-4A tournament set forBrookhaven High’s Sinclair Gym Feb. 13-17, Friday’s pivotaldivision twinbill between Brookhaven and Mendenhall moved a pair ofteams closer to No. 1-seedings in the upcoming tournament. TheBrookhaven girls and Mendenhall boys moved one step closer tolocking the tournament’s No. 1 seeds and regular season titlesFriday night with impressive wins.

Before a capacity crowd of 700, the Lady Panthers thwarted thehomestanding Mendenhall Lady Tigers 39-30 in a battle of the top 2teams in the girls division. The Tigers used a huge scoring spreein the second period to author a 79-56 win over the BrookhavenPanthers.

The Lady Panthers are ranked No. 6 in the latest Quality HomeOxygen Southwest MS Prep Super Seven girls poll. The Mendenhallboys are ranked first in the boys poll.

Brookhaven hosts Terry Tuesday and McComb Friday to close outthe regular season. Mendenhall travels to Port Gibson Tuesday andhosts Lawrence County Friday. Wins by the Brookhaven girls orMendenhall boys over one of their remaining two opponents wouldlock up the top billings.

Brookhaven 39, Mendenhall 30

The girls matchup featured the top two teams in the girlsstandings, with both squads posting 7-2 division worksheetsentering this contest. This game resembled the Jan. 13 battle atBrookhaven Sinclair Gym, where the Lady Panthers posted a 40-28win.

The Lady Tigers (16-6, 7-3), who are known for their tenaciousdefensive presence, were not as aggressive on the defense. Therewas no fluency in their offensive repertoire; as Mendenhall wassomewhat limited by the Ole Brook height advantage.

“We did not play well tonight,” said Mendenhall girls coachArchie Skiffer, who is retiring from the Lady Tiger basketball helmfollowing this season. “We played well in the first half, but didnot shoot well in the second half.”

Skiffer’s team took a 12-11 lead into the second frame. ValenciaBradley opened the second with an offensive putback for a 14-11Lady Tiger lead.

The Lady Panthers (14-14, 8-2) came to life; to the tune of ashort 7-3 run to take an 18-17 advantage into the halftime lockerroom. Ole Brook took the lead for good during the run, at 15-14 onan offensive putback by sophomore center Nikki Byrd.

A balanced scoring attack lead the Ole Brook charge as headcoach Billy Holmes watched his ballclub begin to dominate of bothends of the floor.

“This was one of our more complete efforts of the year,” saidLady Panther head coach Billy Holmes. “Our offense and defense weregood tonight.”

Holmes’ team continued their push with an 11-4 third frame,leading 29-21 entering the final period.

“Our inside game did well tonight, but we have to somehow findsome outside shooting,” added Holmes. “We did not shoot free throwsgood tonight.”

The Lady Panther defense forced 17 Mendenhall turnovers; scoring16 points. The Lady Tigers held a 35-32 rebounding edge, includingan 18-11 cushion on the offensive boards. But Ole Brook scored 12points on their second chance opportunities, compared to 4 byMendenhall.

Byrd led all scorers with a game-high 15 points, 11 rebounds and2 steals. Portia Dickey followed with 11 points. Swayze Black had10 rebounds and 3 assists. Angel Weston had 2 steals and 2assists.

Mendenhall was led by Marlakia Keys and Shirrell Black with 8points apiece.

Mendenhall 79, Brookhaven 56

The Panthers (6-22, 2-8) opened the game leading 2-0 on a basketby junior guard Terrance Perkins. Unfortunately for Ole Brook, thatwould be its only lead of the game.

Just as it was raining outside the Mendenhall gym, the Tigers(22-3, 8-2) began to rain 3-point baskets on the inside. A trey bysharp-shooting guard Garrick Walker gave head coach Jeff Walker’stroops a 3-2 lead that they never relinquished.

Garrick Walker had 11 points for Mendenhall, including 3 of histeam’s 8 treys. James Walker topped the Tigers with 12 points,while Chris Jones tossed in 10.

Walker was pleased to get the win over Brookhaven, followingtheir poor shooting performance at Sinclair Gym in a slim 60-54victory over Brookhaven on Jan. 13.

“We shot the ball better tonight, than we did at Brookhaven,”said Coach Walker. “Our defense played one of its better games ofthe year tonight.”

Mendenhall posted a 16-10 advantage after one period, and a39-19 cushion at halftime. The Tigers used a 14-0 run to forgetheir huge advantage in the second period, using a balanced attackin the process.

Ole Brook, coached by Ronald Hines, could not find a solution tothe Mendenhall arsenal. The Tigers had an answer for every Panthercharge. Hines’ team trailed 59-31 entering the final 8 minutes.

Jerome Avery led the Panthers with 14 points, followed byCharles Rancifer with 13. Avery and Rancifer each had 5 rebounds, 3steals and 3 assists. Simmie Yarborough had 6 boards.