(Andrew Powell/Standard Democrat)
PORTAGEVILLE - The Portageville Lady Bulldogs improved to 10-0 Thursday night after holding off the New Madrid County Central Lady Eagles 66-56.
The Lady Bulldogs managed to use a great transition game in the first half, giving them a sizable lead at halftime, to outweigh a Lady Eagles second half comeback attempt.
"To be honest, it reminds me a lot of last season when we played New Madrid in districts," said Portageville head coach Eric Ellerbrook. "We got up by a big lead and then they started making shots, playing good defense and making a comeback run.
"Last year we lost, but this year we were able to hold them off and take care of the ball. I am proud of the way the girls responded and for playing team ball tonight."
Portageville wasted little time after the opening tip off, as their pressure defense caused several turnover problems for NMCC. These turnovers would soon turn into points when the Lady Bulldogs decided to push the floor, producing quick baskets in the transition game. This helped spark the team to an early 11-2 run which later expanded to 21-10 by the end of the first quarter.
Junior guard Brittney Walker lead the way for Portageville in the early going with eight points in the opening quarter to go along with the team high 26 points in the game.
"We played really good as a team tonight," said Walker. "We just tried to played hard, stay focused and keep our head in the game."
The Lady Bulldogs continued to use their first quarter formula for success in the second quarter to increase their lead, resulting in a 35-19 advantage heading into the locker rooms at half.
"We came in short handed and we knew coming in if we didn't take care of the ball we were going to struggle, especially against a team like this," said NMCC head coach David Crockett. "We had to play some of our best game and at times we did but we didn't handle the pressure like we normally do and it hurt us."
However, the Lady Eagles we're resilient as they came out of the locker room in the third quarter with a new remedy for the Lady Bulldogs. Mimicking the performance of Portageville's first half, NMCC began using their pressure defense to ail the opposing offense.
Shameika Williams led the way for the Lady Eagles, with 10 of her 15 points in the third coming off fast break opportunities. NMCC managed to cut the lead to six at 51-45. But that would be as close as the Lady Eagles would get as the Lady Bulldogs regained composure in the fourth quarter to seal the game with steady ball control and clutch shooting from the free throw line making 7-10 in the final quarter.
"I was proud of our girls for keeping composure and after awhile just realizing that we had to take care of the ball and make better passes with smarter shots," said Ellerbrook. "I'm just proud of our girls for playing team ball and I'm glad we're getting better everyday."
Along with Walker, Kellye Penn helped lead Portagville down the stretch, finishing with 18 points and one 3-pointer while Jaleea Drake and Courtney Chamberlain got in on the action with nine points apiece.
"Coach Ellerbrook does a great job with these girls," said Crockett. "They play hard and are fundamentally sound but I'm still proud of my girls for never giving up and making a stand in that second half and that is something we can build on."
NMCC's Jasmine Flennoy followed Williams with 15 points while Jasmine Beasley also had nine points.
The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Eagles (3-5) will be back in action this Saturday during the 11th annual Lady Royals Christmas Classic at Twin Rivers. Portageville goes head to head against the Senath Lady Lions at 12:30 p.m. while NMCC is scheduled to duel the Lady Tigers of Clearwater at 8 p.m.
At the junior varsity level, the Lady Bulldogs came away with similar results beating the Lady Eagles 36-20.