Monday, December 30, 2013

White Station 2013 Dragon Fire Invitational Champs

from Commercial Appeal

White Station captured its first Dragon Fire Invitational tournament girls basketball title Monday night at Collierville, holding on to defeat District 16-AAA rival Whitehaven, 63-59. Junior Emanye Robertson earned MVP honors, scoring 18 points for the Spartans (6-3), while sophomore Miyah Barnes added 17. Senior Laka Blache led all scorers with 24 points for the Tigers (11-2).

Marion (7-3) got 18 points from junior Dahlia Bell while three other teammates each chipped in nine as the Patriots topped Bolton 47-39 in the third-place game. They showed patience off turnovers, often scoring with short jumpers or weakside putbacks, to the surprise of coach Shunda Johnson who said “usually they try and bulldoze through.”

The young Wildcat squad, led by 5-10 sophomore forward Charity Savage, reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion White Station. And after a rough first half Monday against Marion, the Wildcats (5-7) made a game of it before losing to Marion.

Savage scored 12 of 14 points in the second half to lead the Wildcats, and was at her best in a six-point burst with some pretty inside power moves that helped close a 31-21 deficit to 33-27 by the end of the third quarter. However, a third foul slowed her down, and ground Bolton’s attack to a halt.
“I’m happy with my rebounding and my drives to the basket,” Savage said, “but I’ve still got to work on my shot.”

Wildcats coach Jason Martin said “this type of game is hard for her when there are multiple people who can play her physical. Really, she’s a three, but we have her in the post because we don’t have anyone else to play there. She’s doing a great job, and while we didn’t show it tonight we’re getting other players who are starting to step up offensively. We did a lot of positive things this week.”

Retired Bartlett boys coach Dave Owen, who is helping Martin as a volunteer, was simple in his assessment of Savage’s potential. “D-1,” he said. “She’s got all the skills, and is putting them together.”

Arlington (9-5) ran into the Spartan buzzsaws in the second round. But the Tigers came back with consolation round wins over St. Agnes and host Collierville (5-8) to establish themselves as early favorites again to win the district title. Senior Raylin Starks scored five of her eight points down the stretch to help the Tigers break a 35-all tie and go on to a 41-37 win over the Dragons in the fifth-place game.

Arlington coach David Offerle said his team “is still a work in progress,” but was happy with their opportunistic play in the second half led by Starks, and sophomore Torrie Sewell, who had nine points.

“We’re finding ways to get it done right now,” he said.

Collierville had a chance to get the win thanks to 17 points by North Alabama-bound senior Jessica Brown. But she lost the handle on a key rebound that led to as putback by Starks to break a 35-all tie. The Dragons’ chances evaporated in the final seconds on a bad pass, something Bobby Yates has seen before this season from his rebuilding squad.

“We have the chance to make plays and we’re struggling with those chances,” said Yates, who was not on the bench Monday after being whistled for two technicals earlier in the tournament. “We’re in a tough district, and it’s going to be an uphill fight.”

Bartlett, after an opening-round win, finished eighth in the 16-team tournament, losing 52-45 to St. Agnes Monday despite 20 points from senior Shondria Scruggs, 12 in the final quarter. Caroline Cook led the Stars with 18 points, scoring six in each of the final three periods.

Savage, Starks, Brown and Scruggs made the All-Tournament team along with Cook, Juanitia Walton (Kirby), Marnesha Hamer (Fairley), Kendra Richardson (Millington), Ciara Douglas (Southwind), Shay Johnson (Byhalia), Susannah Kelley (Jonesboro), Brandy Davis (Hamilton), Danisha Turner (consolation bracket champ West Memphis), April Phelix and Antonia Motley (Marion), Blache, Maia McCoy and Tia Polk (Whitehaven), along with Robertson, Barnes, Damiah Griffin and Courtney Banks (White Station).

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