The two schools put on quite a show, but in the end the Ruleville Central Lady Tigers and the East Side High School Trojans came away with the region championship. The Lady Tigers defeated the Trojanettes 46-37 in the girls title game, while the Trojans defeated the Tigers in an overtime thriller 54-53.
The boys game had all the fans in the packed house on their feet. Ruleville dominated the first part of the contest as the team led 18-8 early in the second quarter and ended up taking a 24-15 lead at halftime.
Through out the second half, East Side chipped away at the lead. During a 70 second stretch, John Paul Davis scored six points including two points on a vicious slam dunk to give the Trojans a 39-38 lead with 4:57 left in the game.
Ruleville battled back as Demarcus Bracey hit a basket and was fouled. He made his free throw to give the Tigers a 41-39 lead with 4:09 left to play. East Side ended up getting some help from one of its young players as freshman Bobby Jones, Jr. hit two clutch free throws to tie the game up at 41-41. The Tigers battled back again as Tyquan Rule and Bracey scored some key points toward the end of regulation, but East Side’s Davis delivered another dunk with 13 seconds left on the clock to tie the game up at 47-47, sending it into overtime.
In the overtime period, Davis brought the thunder again with another slam dunk to put the Trojans up 49-47. Ruleville’s Xavier Appleberry hit two key baskets to tie the game twice, but East Side continued to get clutch play from Jones as he scored two points with a short bucket off the glass to give the Trojans a 53-51 lead with 1:05 left to play. The Trojans’ defense battled hard the rest of the way. Trailing 54-53, the Tigers went for one final shot but it hit off the rim and the Trojans celebrated with the championship. The Trojans improved to 20-9, while the Tigers fell to 17-7.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” Trojans head coach Leroy Cotton said. “They’ve given a good effort all year long. I’m just proud. In the last three ball games, we’ve been down, but every time we’ve fought back.”
Davis and Jackson scored 14 points each to lead the Trojans, followed by Clarence Stewart with 10 points, LeAndrew Banyon with eight points and Jones with six points. Cory Tuner led the Tigers with 10 points, followed by Appleberry and Rule with eight points each.
In the girls championship game, the Ruleville Central Lady Tigers came out aggressive and took it to the East Side Trojanettes. Ruleville played good defense and jumped out to a quick 13-2 lead with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. The Trojanettes chipped away at the lead. With 5:40 left in the second quarter, East Side’s Carvacier Sanders hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 15-15. From there on, the Lady Tigers buckled down and regained the lead. Charshayla Morgan, Brunetta Cockrell and Shakira Singleton scored some clutch points in the second quarter to help the Lady Tigers take a 25-19 lead going into the lockerroom at halftime.
In the second half, the Tigers played great defense as the Trojanettes had a hard time scoring points. East Side senior LaShyra Cotton, who scored a game-high 21 points, tallied 15 in the second half, but the rest of the team was held to a mere four points in the half. Ruleville was able to get the lead up to as much as 15 points in the fourth quarter and was able to secure the region championship. Ruleville improved to 17-7, while East Side fell to 24-4.
“Our problem all year is we’ve tried to contain LaShyra Cotton, and that can’t happen,” Lady Tigers head coach Chiquita Primer-Bracey said. “She’s a phenomenal players hands down, but once the other players start scoring that’s where we’ve had our problems. You’ll have LaShyra Cotton with 20 and then you’ll have three other players with 10 or 15 points. That’s what we aimed to stop tonight and that’s what we did.”
Cockrell led the Lady Tigers with 17 points including 12 in the second half, followed by Singleton with 12 points and Robrieka Finn with nine points.
For East Side, Sanders and Errica Blair scored eight points each.
The North Half Playoffs for the girls will begin Monday, while the North Half Playoffs for the boys will be on Tuesday. In Monday’s action, East Side (No. 2 seed) will host Booneville (No. 3 seed, Region 1) at 6 p.m., while Ruleville (No. 1 seed) will host Kossuth (No. 4 seed, Region 1) at 7 p.m. In Tuesday’s action, East Side (No. 1 seed) will host Ripley (No. 4 seed, Region 1) at 7 p.m., while Ruleville Central will host Alcorn Central at 7 p.m.