senior night

The Mantachie High School basketball teams held senior night Friday against East Union Attendance Center. Both teams picked up wins in their division opener.

In high school basketball, the first semester is a warm-up exercise for divisional contests. Both Mantachie teams experienced rocky waters thus far, but they netted a school of Urchins from East Union on Friday.

Things started swimmingly for the Lady Mustangs, who splashed out to a 14-0 lead, but the Lady Urchins turned the tide late the first quarter, responding with a 19-6 run of their own that lasted until the halftime break where the score was 20-19 in Mantachie’s favor.

Both teams struggled shooting the ball and floated in and out of foul trouble for the duration. The second half consisted of each team taking multiple turns with the lead, neither getting more than a single possession ahead after the halfway point of the third quarter.

East Union gained a slight advantage late in the fourth but a steal and layup by sophomore guard Darby Pitts pulled the Lady Mustangs back to within one, 37-38, with ninety seconds to play.

A masterful defensive stand on the other end forced a turnover and set up another transition opportunity for Mantachie. Sophomore point guard Nella Jackson found senior center Ella Pitts coming down the lane, and sensing the collapsing defense she kicked it to the corner to senior Madison Jones, who put up a shot from long distance that connected with nothing but net, putting the Lady Mustangs up 40-38 with under a minute to play.

“I struggled with my shot early in the game{/span}, but thankfully my teammates trusted me to take the shot in that moment,” said Jones. “I knew I had to come through for them, and seeing that go through the net, on senior night no-less, was such an amazing feeling. All glory to God!”

The Lady Urchins scored out of a timeout to close the first half, so they elected for the same following Jones’ go-ahead three, but this time Mantachie’s defense held strong.

A block by Ella Pitts, her tenth of the game to go along with 11 rebounds, allowed the Lady Mustangs to dribble out the remaining time, final score 40-38.

“Not everyone can score all the time, so it’s great for me to be able to help my team on the defensive end,” said Pitts.

It was really exciting tonight and I can’t wait to see what my team and I can bring from here on out to get some more division wins.”{/span}

Jones was the team-high scorer with 14, while Darby Pitts also squeaked into double-figures with 11.

Despite offensive struggles, the defense saved the day, with unsung heroes in Nella Jackson, Ella Pitts, Ramsey Montgomery, and Layken Cates all coming up big down the stretch.

The boys game launched on a similar trajectory, with the Mustangs stampeding from the gates with a 18-6 first quarter run, but unlike the matinee contest, the Mustangs led wire-to-wire, fending off any comebacks.

Continuing the trend of seniors standing out on their honorarium night, Ross Simpson netted eleven of his game-high 16 points in the first quarter, and the other five in the second to lead the early route.

“I wanted the win really bad and was prepared to go out and do whatever it was going to take to make it happen for my team,” Simpson said. “It’s our (seniors) last year to represent our community and show them how hard we’ve been working, so it was great for all of us to play well and get the win.”

At the end of the third quarter, the score was not insurmountable at 42-28, but any hope for East Union was quickly quelled by sophomore Jaycob Hawkes’ ten fourth quarter points to drown the Urchins once and for all, 60-44.

It was the best all-around team showing for the Mustangs, with five finishing in double-digits: seniors Simpson (16), Dylan Bennett (10), Alex Duthu (10), junior Cade Bennett (10), and Hawkes (10).

Both teams will continue division play this week. They played at New Site last night and face newly christened arch-foe Walnut Friday evening.

abby.loden@journalinc.com

Twitter: @abbyloden

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