Shorter saves Myrtle in hoops opener
By Kevin Cavender
INGOMAR - Nowhere was more fitting to kick off North Mississippi's 1997-98 basketball season than Ingomar and who better to do so than a couple of good old Union County rivals.
Myrtle center Rickey Shorter blocked Jason Sanders potential game-tying shot with five seconds left as the defending 1A state champions Hawks held off the Urchins 60-58 in the Ingomar Preseason Tournament. In girls action, East Union defeated Myrtle 71-46.
"It was just as tough and ugly as I thought it was going to be," Myrtle coach Elvis Thomas said. "I think we hit 3-of-15 free throws down the stretch and it's obvious we're all going to have to get a lot better."
East Union overcame Myrtle's one-time double-digit advantage to pull within 59-58 with 18 seconds left when Urchin Todd McCord hit his only shot of the night - a three pointer from the left wing.
"I told our kids right after the game that I was proud that they didn't quit," East Union coach Danny Henderson said. "We were down 8, 10 points and we're not very big. I think the only thing I was upset with was the way we shot the ball."
East Union's fourth-quarter comeback was led by guards Barry McCord and Timbo Henderson who helped the Urchins trim Myrtle's advantage in the last two minutes. McCord's steal-and-score with 1:52 left made it 56-53.
Myrtle, playing without center Felix Berry who is academically ineligible, didn't have any trouble shooting the ball early as they raced to a 13-4 lead behind Shorter's inside play.
"There's no question he was the difference early in the game," Thomas said of Shorter. "He dominated early."
East Union refused to go away. Henderson and McCord got going in the second quarter, scoring eight and seven points, respectively, to cut Myrtle's lead to 32-27 at halftime.
Myrtle never trailed, but struggled at the foul line in the game's final minutes. Hawks forward Stephen Nolan had 5 of his 11 points in the final period.
Shorter led Myrtle with 15 points while Brandon Kirk had 12 and Stephen Nolan tallied 11.
East Union was led by McCord's 25 points, followed by Henderson with 15 and Sanders with 11.
East Union's girls started strong and never let up, taking an early 10-3 first quarter lead with 6 points coming from forward Jessica Stacks.
Myrtle attempted a comeback in the second quarter, cutting the Lady Urchin advantage to 25-15 on Brandy Clayton's 12-footer.
But that was before East Union's Jana Reed heated up, firing in two three pointers and a 15-foot jumper to lead the Lady Urchins to a 38-23 halftime lead.
Reed led East Union (1-0) with 21 points, followed by Amanda Williams and Stacks who each tallied 11. Presilla Berry's 20 points was tops for the Myrtle girls.
Tonight's Ingomar Preseason Tournament action begins at 6 p.m. with both Ingomar squads hosting Ashland. The finals and consolation games will be held Saturday.
"We're playing basketball earlier than anybody in America," Ingomar coach Norris Ashley said.