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By BRAD CROWE
Greene County was represented exceptionally well in last week’s 65th annual Richton Rotary Tournament as the Wildcat men’s team brought home the championship trophy and the Lady Cats battled their way to a second place finish.
The Wildcats claimed the 3-day event featuring competition between teams from Richton, Greene County, Perry Central and West Jones, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Mustangs in the tournament finale. The Lady Cats placed second as runners-up to West Jones after earning two wins and one loss and playing for the championship without one of their top players.
Boys’ head coach Brance Crane and the Wildcats entered the tournament with hopes of a strong performance that would erase the taste of a bitter loss at home to Laurel Christian the previous weekend. They departed Perry County on Saturday having accomplished just that.
Their spot in the championship game was earned with double-digit wins over Perry Central (53-17) and Richton (45-35). Senior forward Conner West led the team in scoring through both contests, with 12 points against the Bulldogs and 14 points against the Rebels.
The win over West Jones was a little harder to secure, as the Mustangs stormed out of the gate to build an early lead and take an 11-point advantage into halftime. The Wildcats managed to cut the deficit down to six points entering the fourth quarter, and with just over a minute remaining, senior guard Sylvester Robinson drained a 3-pointer to give GCHS its first lead of the night.
SEE VIDEO OF THE KEY SHOT ( HERE )
Crane’s crew held its own on the defensive end to hold West Jones scoreless in the final minute, sealing a 49-47 victory.
“This group is special, man,” Crane said. “These kids fight hard, and they don’t play to the scoreboard — they just play. We practice those kinds of situations every day at practice. We didn’t do anything different or call anything special. We just knew what we had to do, and our guys played hard and executed when we needed it the most.”
The Lady Cats got off to a great start with back-to-back convincing wins over Richton and Perry Central by scores of 67-42 and 48-39. However, an injury suffered in Day 2 of the tournament forced the team to enter its last game against 5A West Jones with a key piece of the winning formula missing from the puzzle, and the Lady Mustangs pulled away early en route to a 50-32 win. Head coach Dale Kimble said he was pleased with his team’s effort but hopes they seize the opportunity to learn from key mistakes that cost them down the stretch.
“I was pleased with our effort but not our execution,” Kimble said. “Playing a team the caliber of West Jones will definitely benefit our team. I thought our girls played hard against them and competed but missed too many easy shots.
“Playing three nights in a row requires plenty of physical and mental toughness. I thought Lisa Johnson and
Kennedy McCann stepped up after we lost Reanna Friday night and Saturday. All our guards worked real hard in both games.”
With district play drawing nearer each day, both squads will leap right back into action in continued preparation. The Lady Cats traveled to St. Martin on Tuesday for one final non-district contest before hosting Moss Point in the region opener on Thursday, Dec. 16. The Wildcats will have one more non-region game after St. Martin when they travel to George County on Friday for one final tune-up game before tipping off region play against Moss Point.