This week in Mantachie, the girls basketball team bounded to a huge pair of wins while their male counterparts limped along.
New Site picked up the victory in boys action on Tuesday night, 52-38, albeit in the absence of Mustangs’ leading scorer and assist-man Cade Bennett, who's still recovering from an upper body injury sustained last week against Water Valley.
Chemistry issues and seasonal illness afflicted the boys on Friday night in their rematch with Kossuth, falling 35-42. The loss was extra costly because, unlike the first pairing in which Mantachie dominated, this one counted towards divisional standings.
The real talking point of the week goes to the Lady Mustangs, who started their week by pulling off the arguably one of the biggest upsets in recent memory for area high school hoops when they dethroned the Lady Royals in a decisive 58-43 victory.
After allowing only 8 points in the first quarter, the hot hand of junior Abby Patterson led Mantachie to a 30-24 halftime lead, netting 13 of her game-high 19 points in the second quarter.
Anyone who has even heard rumors of New Site basketball from the last two decades would expect the perennial powerhouse to come out of the break on a warpath. Alas, the Lady Mustangs defensive front turned up the heat, forcing a barrage of turnovers and limiting the opponents to just 3 points in the period.
While the lead did wane to a nerve-racking 6 points at one point in the fourth, big time jumpers by senior Nella Jackson and junior Darby Pitts pushed the spread safely back to double digits. Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch threaded any of the remaining majesty in the Lady Royals’ robes.
In addition to Patterson’s 19, Jackson finished with a season-high 14 points, while Pitts and Jaiden Trulove totaled 10 points apiece. Trulove pulled double-duty on the night, battling with all-area post player Lily Whitley, limiting the recent Northwest Community College signee to a season-low 5 points.
“This win was bigger than basketball,” said Patterson who is in her first season with the Lady Mustangs after transferring from East Union in the offseason. “I wanted to step up and bring more intensity to this one, and we all came together as a team and pulled this one off. It wasn’t just me leading. We were a team tonight.”
When asked about the transition to a new team and immediately playing a prominent role in big games, Patterson quickly credited her new school and her teammates.
“You expect bumps in the road and learning curves anytime you go to a new place but Mantachie has had the most welcoming atmosphere,” she explained. “The energy in that gym is indescribable — from the community, to the faculty, student section, band, and especially the boys’ team supporting us. Mantachie definitely feels like home.”
Rather than let the weight of such a monumental victory overcome them the Lady Mustangs kept level and showed that Tuesday’s win was no fluke by gutting out a razor-thin 47-46 victory on Friday over Kossuth to move to (2-0) in division play.
Patterson did all of her scoring in the first quarter, hitting a pair of 3-point buckets, and seasonal leading scorer Pitts, tallied a triple in the fourth for her only field goal, as both members of the dynamic scoring duo suffered from a combination of general sickness and fatigue.
With the perimeter scoring threats held at bay, the defense needed to keep the spread close enough for the offense to seek out alternative scoring options, which they did in the bodies of Trulove newfound sparkplug Audrey Shell, who totaled 15 and 11 points respectively.
A 4-point lead after the first quarter shrunk in half by halftime, 22-20, which turned into a 5-point deficit at 27-32 after three. But Trulove took command down low in the fourth, racking a trio of baskets from the paint, while younger sister Jennah Trulove hit paydirt after a cold shooting stretch in the third, nailing a three and a two on back-to-back to possessions to close the game.
“I’m not going to lie or hold back, these wins felt dang good,” said Mantachie head coach Carleigh King. “Anytime you beat one of those teams, let alone both, and stay undefeated in division, you’ve played some good basketball. I’m proud of this team and their hard work.”
Not only did the team pick up a win against a defending state champion and a second team only three years removed from the same title, but they did so cohesively as a unit, relying on multiple options, silencing the doubters who wrote them off early as one-dimensional on offense and weak-willed on defense.
Games next week at Alcorn Central (division) and at home against Baldwyn for senior night will give the girls a chance to continue building on their success, while the boys will have an opportunity to right the ship before it gets lost at sea.