By JAY TIDWELL/Sports Writer BOONEVILLE — Wesley Barefield scored a game-high 28 points and South Pontotoc continued to play well on offense, but the Cougars were unable to slow down Wheeler. Three Cougars fouled out and two more were in foul trouble before the end of their 79-65 loss to the Eagles in the Kiwanis Invitational basketball tournament at Booneville last Tuesday afternoon. About 14 hours after South wrapped up an 88-52 loss to Booneville in the late game Monday in the Blue Devils’ gym, the Cougars were back on the floor at Bonner Arnold Coliseum at NEMCC for the noon match on Tuesday against the Eagles. “Offensively, I think we’re okay,” said South Pontotoc head coach Shane Hayles. “We’re running some high-series type stuff, and looking for some easy buckets for our post players, that type of thing. “We’re still making a few errors in that area, but offensively we’re okay. Defensively, we’re not. And that’s where the game is won at. “Right now, I’m having a hard time making my team believe that’s where the game is won at, on the boards and defense,” Hayles added. Matthew Berry had 13 points and Caylan Austin and Nathan Newell added nine apiece for South, which fell to 1-16 with the loss. Trouble in second quarter South led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter but fell behind 47-28 by halftime. A pair of 3-pointers by Wheeler (6-6) in the final two minutes of the half gave it the boost to pull out to its 19-point lead during the second period. Second-half rally for South Austin nailed a 3-pointer, Berry had an assist inside to Barefield and Berry scored on a driving basket along the baseline to finish a 10-4 run with 1:49 remaining in the third. The rally pulled South within 59-48, but that’s when foul trouble took its toll. Tyson Berry fouled out with 6:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Austin picked up his fifth foul with only 3:39 showing. Newell sank a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:47 left in the game to edge within 71-59, but fouled out shortly thereafter. “From a coaching perspective, that’s from reaching in fouls and not moving your feet and sliding,” Hayles said. “We play man-to-man (defense) and we reach in and don’t slide our feet. We’re a poor team defensively right now.” Barefield, a senior forward, accounted for nine of South’s 14 rebounds. He was also eight of 11 from the free throw line. Brandon Woodruff led Wheeler with 19 points. He fouled out with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter.

 

Jay Tidwell

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