By Thomas Sellers Jr.
GERMANTOWN — Whether it was fatigue or the Houston Lady Mustangs’ execution, it seemed the Millington Lady Trojans hit a wall around the 4:15 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Lady Mustangs erased a 37-24 Millington lead to jump ahead 41-34 after a three-point play by Ayoka Harris. Houston went on to capture the victory in their home gymnasium 50-38.
“We played 28 minutes of pretty good basketball,” Millington Head Coach Bruce Marshall said. “The young kids came in, we had four starters sitting over there on the bench. We had four babies go in and do one heck of a job.
“Erin (Clark) helped hold them all together,” he continued. “Then we came out in that second half and executed. We got exactly what we were wanting to get. We got back into the ball game and we even took the lead.”
For an 11 minute stretch in the first half the Lady Trojans were without upperclassmen Kendra Richardson, Treasure Reading and Tiara Caldwell. Two starters weren’t in the Houston Gymnasium Dec. 18 out on family vacations.
So without five veteran players available, Marshall leaned on senior guard Clark to lead the team that was on the floor in the second quarter. Sharing the court with Clark was Glenda Garner, Katie Dupree, Lindsey Harris and Jhardee Walker.
The Lady Mustangs were nursing a 17-8 advantage in the second quarter when Clark went on the attack. Using slash moves, Clark scored back-to-back layups to make the score 17-12.
Garner nailed a pair of foul shots that made the Houston three points. Lady Mustang Jaida Roper ended the Millington run with a layup.
Houston went on to outscore the Lady Trojans 9-7 behind baskets from Harris and Anna Braxton. The Lady Mustangs were ahead 28-21.
The Lady Trojans recently faced a deficit on Dec. 14 at Dyer County. Millington trailed by as many as 17 points to the Lady Choctaws. And heading into the fourth quarter the Lady Trojans down 13 points.
Millington rallied to tie the game before failing to Dyer County. So the Lady Trojans were ready for a comeback effort against Houston sending Reading, Richardson and Caldwell back onto the floor.
Millington started the third quarter on a 8-0 run to take the lead at 30-29. Dupree got the rally rolling with a couple of jumpers. Then Clark continued her attacking the basket this time wrapping a pass around a Houston defender. The ball found Reading and the senior forward kissed it off the glass for bucket.
Then Dupree hit another long ranger jumper that gave Millington the lead at 29-28. Houston finally scored a field goal when Harris hit a layup at the 2 minute and 55 second mark. Then her teammate Julianne Shiles drained a three-pointer to make the score that made the score 33-29.
The Lady Trojans kept executing until the final buzzer of the quarter when Clark hit a scope shot in traffic to that made the score 35-34 in favor of Houston.
The game remained close midway into the fourth quarter when Lady Mustang Sydney Malone scored on a put-back bucket that made the score 37-34. Minutes later Harris made the play that seemed to break Millington’s back with a layup drawing a foul. Her three-point play made the score 44-34.
“They out-executed us,” Marshall said. “We played 28 minutes of good basketball. I asked them, ‘How long is the basketball game?’ It’s not 28 minutes. It’s 32. When we get to the point to where we can execute for 32 minutes, we’re going to be a lot tougher to handle.”
With a small break after the Houston game, the Lady Trojans prepared for this week’s Dragon Fire Tournament in Collierville.
“I’m looking forward to next week,” Marshall said. “We open up with Obion County that was second in the State last year. They have several kids returning from that team. They have a girl who just signed with Memphis who plays in the post.
“It will give us opportunities to hopefully give some of these younger kids time to step up,” he added. “Maybe get them some minutes to where they can keep improving.”
Marshall said November and December has been tough by design. But the real season begins when the calendar turns into 2013.
“I know the record is not real pretty,” he concluded. “But the most important game of the season right now is January 10 when we play Arlington. The first game in districts.”