Defensive stand pushes Hornets over Wildcats, 55-41

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tamiljah Merrill goes up for a slam dunk in Tuesday’s win over Greene County.  Photo by Taylor Welsh

Tamiljah Merrill goes up for a slam dunk in Tuesday’s win over Greene County.
Photo by Taylor Welsh

The Hornets’ defense bailed themselves out of a potential loss due to a plethora of offensive turnovers against Greene County Tuesday night, beating the Wildcats 55-41.

The Hornets (14-9; 6-3) did not ease into trouble; instead the team dealt with a number of mistakes, battling not only Greene County (5-19; 1-8), but also themselves in the initial stages of the game. However, the team banded together to come out victorious in another close district bout.

“We have got to clean up our mistakes and our bench really needs to get involved in games,” Poplarville Head Coach Chareck Cable said.

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Tuesday’s game was senior night for the Poplarville Hornets, and with the match coming down to a one possession game in the fourth quarter, senior Tamiljah Merrill said he made it his mission to come out with a win.

“This was a great win for us, but we have our eyes set on something bigger,” Merrill said. “We want to win district and that’s going to take a lot of heart. We just have to stay focused on the task ahead.”

Although Greene County took an early 13-11 lead after the first quarter, the Hornets’ defense remained stable, which allowed its offense to attack the rim freely while exhausting the Wildcats on defense.

It was a group effort from the Hornets to gather rebounds, score points and make crucial stops on defense in the first three quarters, but that all changed in the fourth when Merrill took control to lead the Hornets to victory.

“I don’t think this will be our last home game. We still got a lot to prove and we want to make a mark on this program,” Merrill said, referring to a potential playoff game in Poplarville.

Merrill scored eight of Poplarville’s 15 points in the final quarter and finished with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. Fellow senior Tyler Griffin was strong on the defensive boards for the Hornets, which prohibited the Wildcats from getting second chance opportunities down the stretch. He ended the night with eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists and a block.

Poplarville will finish its season at Sumrall Thursday night at 6 p.m. If the Hornets defeat Sumrall, the team will place second in the 7-4A District.

Lady Hornets’ early rally from senior class ends in defeat against Greene County

Elizabeth Hughes paces past a defender as she makes her way to the basket. Photo by Taylor Welsh

Elizabeth Hughes paces past a defender as she makes her way to the basket.
Photo by Taylor Welsh

“We’re all we got; we’re all we need.” That was the chant by the Lady Hornets before beginning Tuesday’s game. Head Coach Dee Robinson instills that mantra to her players every day.

“I love this team. From the starting five down to the last player on the bench, we all work hard every day and fight to the finish,” senior leader Zanaisha Turner said.

What began as an emotional senior night for the Lady Hornets ended as a different, but equally powerful, feeling as Poplarville lost to Greene County 66-57.

After knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, senior captain Mallory Smith, along with Turner, scored all of the Lady Hornets’ first quarter points. Smith tallied eight points while Turner scored six, taking a 14-11 lead.

However, the Lady Wildcats shot lights out from behind the arc, finishing with nine 3-pointers, which made it hard for Poplarville to gain a lead.

As the second half commenced Greene County led 31-29. But, Lady Hornets senior Elizabeth Hughes sprang into action, finding open teammates and nabbing defensive and offensive rebounds to keep her team in the game. Hughes finished the night with three points, five assists, five rebounds and a pair of steals. With another pair of 3-pointers by Smith, the Lady Hornets went toe to toe with the Lady Wildcats as both teams scored 18 points in the third quarter.

As Poplarville brought the game to a one-point contest, 51-50, with 5:34 to go, Greene County developed a 10-5 run that left just enough wiggle room to win. However, the Lady Hornets did not give up.

As Turner finished an acrobatic left-handed layup, she was fouled, sending her to the free throw line to bring the score to 61-57 with 53.9 seconds remaining.

Although the Lady Hornets faced defeat Tuesday night, their minds are still set on what they set out to do before the season started.

“Tonight was exciting, sad and all of the emotions in between,” Turner said. “But we started the season with one goal in mind, and that was to win the district. We are not done fighting.”

Turner finished with 20 points and four rebounds, Smith notched 23 points, three rebounds and a pair of steals, senior Kenya Tillman pitched in with 10 rebounds, six points and three blocks and senior Jasmine Merrill ended the night with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and four points.