Jackson's first loss arrives lopsided

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Jackson's undefeated girls basketball record came to a crashing halt Monday, thanks to a Poplar Bluff team that could do little wrong and an Indians' squad that struggled all night to get anything going.

The Mules limited the Indians to just eight first-half points and rolled to a surprisingly easy 54-26 victory in Jackson.

Jackson, which defeated Poplar Bluff 49-47 in the championship game of the Farmington Tournament in early December, fell to 11-1. The Mules improved to 7-4.

"They're bigger and stronger than us, and for us to beat them, we really have to execute," Jackson coach Sam Sides said. "I thought we were a step slow all night, but give them credit for that. They were tough.

"We've been winning, but we haven't been playing very well, and tonight it finally caught up with us."

Poplar Bluff and Jackson have been among the state's premier large-school girls programs in recent years, and the longtime rivals generally play down-to-the-wire games -- which is why Monday's affair surprised Mules coach Kirk Chronister.

"I was real pleased. I thought we really executed well, and it was a good team effort," Chronister said. "It was one of those nights where everything was going our way and we got a lot of bounces.

"We've had some great games with them, and it's a great rivalry. It's always good when you can beat them."

Tierra Johnson, a senior guard, scored a game-high 19 points for Poplar Bluff and wreaked havoc against Jackson both offensively and defensively with her quick feet and hands.

"She's a real good athlete who does a lot of good things for us," Chronister said.

Senior Jennifer Hillis added 10 points for the Mules, who started four seniors and one junior.

Jackson, which has only one senior on its entire roster, was led by junior Loni Littlepage with seven points.

The Indians shot just 27.5 percent from the field (11 of 40) and misfired on all 14 of their 3-point attempts. They also had 19 turnovers.

"That's a bad combination," Sides said. "We had been shooting the ball pretty well."

Poplar Bluff, consistently using crisp passes to work the ball inside for easy baskets, shot 57.9 percent (22 of 38). The Mules had 16 turnovers.

"You have to give them credit," Sides said. "They executed on offense and their defense was tough. We missed some open shots, but their defense was good."

Jackson scored the game's first basket for its only lead of the night and the Indians trailed just 7-6 late in the opening quarter.

But after that it was basically all Poplar Bluff. The Mules scored the final four points of the period to lead 11-6, then outscored the Indians 14-2 in the second quarter to open up a commanding 25-8 halftime lead.

About the biggest cheer from Jackson's crowd came with 54 seconds left in the half as Poplar Bluff was whistled for its first foul, although the Indians were called for only four first-half fouls in the fast-moving game that ended with a total of just 16 fouls, nine on the visitors.

Things got no better for Jackson in the final half as the closest the Indians could get was 15 points on the opening basket of the third quarter. It was 40-15 after three and the Mules led by as many as 29 points in the closing moments.

"I thought we broke down mentally once we got behind," Sides said. "But like I said, you have to give Poplar Bluff credit."

Poplar Bluff 54, Jackson 26

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Jackson62711--26

PB (54) -- Sara Holt 3, Mac Nelson 3, Tierra Johnson 19, Stephanie Ferguson 2, Kristen Ploetze 5, Sandra Pratt 2, Kassie Stonecipher 4, Jennifer Hillis 10, Lauren Shelton 6. FG 18, FT 4-7, F 9 (3-pointers: Nelson 1, Johnson 1, Hillis 2. Fouled out: none)

JACKSON (26) -- Kylie Werner 4, Loni Littlepage 7, Kelly Loos 3, Bobbie Jones 6, Amanda Peiffer 6. FG 11, FT 4-8, F 7 (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)

JV: Jackson 37, Poplar Bluff 36

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