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Walnut's Madi-Kate Vuncannon finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, and a pair of steals in the Lady Wildcats' win over Ripley. (Courtesy Sean Akins)

WALNUT - The Ripley Tigers and Lady Tigers took the trip to northern Tippah County to take on Walnut in a pair of close games. The Lady Wildcats defeated the Lady Tigers 54-52, while the Tigers won the boys' game 24-23.

(G) Walnut 54 - Ripley 52

The Lady Wildcats had a tough test in front of them with the Lady Tigers, especially with the early-season emergence of Alorian Story in Ripley's frontcourt. However, the Lady Wildcats were able to develop a gameplan to slow Story, and, along with a 36-point night from Madi-Kate Vuncannon, defeat the Lady Tigers 54-52

"I think they played really, really hard," Lady Wildcats head coach Jackie Vuncannon said of her team. "Story has a lot of size on us, and we don't have a whole lot of size, so I told the girls that we just have to play smart. We really had to make an effort to stop her because she's a very good player. She's really strong, but I thought our girls played well together."

The Lady Wildcats jumped out to a 19-13 lead after a 16-point outburst from Vuncannon in the first quarter. Consistent double teams on Story led to her almost only getting looks after offensive rebounds, however she was still able to produce plenty of second-chance points, leading to Ripley cutting Walnut's lead to 32-27 at halftime, then taking the lead 41-40 at the end of the third quarter.

The Lady Wildcats were able to prevent further second-chance opportunities in the fourth quarter, giving them enough breathing room to pull away for the 54-52 win. Vuncannon finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, and a pair of steals, while Story finished with 18 points and ten rebounds.

(B) Ripley 24 - Walnut 23

In what started as a back and forth battle, the Wildcats and Tigers traded three's to start their contest. A 6-6 score after the first few minutes gave way to a Walnut 8-2 run, giving the Wildcats the advantage after the first quarter. Ripley recovered in the second quarter, ending the quarter on a 7-0 run to tie the game at halftime 21-21.

The second half is where the game took an odd turn. Ripley scored on their first possession of the half to bring the score to 23-21, then forced a Walnut stop on defense. Ripley then held the ball at halfcourt with roughly seven minutes left in the quarter. Ripley did not attempt to set up a play or move the ball, only minimal movement from Ripley's wings occurred, while Walnut stayed in a zone look on defense, not forcing the issue or playing more aggressive on defense. What followed was nearly seven minutes of inactivity, leading to Ripley taking a 23-21 lead into the final quarter after Ripley attempted a play at roughly 20 seconds left in the quarter.

While there was more activity in the final quarter, it did not translate into more points, as only three points combined were scored by the two teams. Ripley extended their lead to 24-21 after a free-throw, then Walnut cut that lead to one. Walnut's final shot of the game fell short, giving Ripley the 24-23 win.

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