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MMI girls return favor vs. Sumter

The sixth-ranked MMI Lady Tigers took their undefeated record to York Jan. 17 to face the Sumter Academy Lady Eagles, and returned with their only loss of the season. Fortunately for them, they also returned with plenty of motivation for the teams’ next meeting.

That meeting took place in Marion Friday night, and an inspired MMI team jumped out to a 16-5 first-quarter lead on their way to a decisive 51-30 win. With the victory, MMI improved to 15-1 on the season and 6-1 in area play while Sumter lost their second area game in the race to host the area tournament.

“They’d given us our only regional loss,” said MMI head coach Dr. Michelle Ivy, “so to even have a chance to host the tournament and to prove we could compete wit hthem, we had to come out strong.”

The Lady Tigers used a huge third quarter to pull away after Sumter had hung tough in the first half. Back-to-back first quarter baskets by MMI’s 6-3 center Felicia Sprott and a Yolanda Kelley score gave the home team an 11-point lead, 16-5, with less than a minute to play in the period.

But Mallory Fox’s basket with 11 seconds remaining sparked an 8-2 run over the next four minutes that narrowed the gap to five, 18-13. The teams traded baskets until Kelley hit two free throws to close out the half with MMI up 25-17.

The Lady Tigers came out on fire in the second half, scoring 10 of the first 12 points of the third quarter to push their lead to 16. Back-to-back baskets by Erin Ozment cut the lead to 12 with 2:19 to play in the period, but Emily Easley basket and two more free throws by Kelley in the quarter’s final minute put the game all but out of reach at 39-23 entering the fourth.

MMI made sure there were no miracle comebacks, scoring 12 more points in the final while holding Sumter to 7.

“We were too tense,” said Sumter head coach Kirk Knight. “They were pumped up too much. Our shots weren’t falling. We’ve got to be relaxed and just play. If our shots had been falling, it would have been a different ball game.”

The Lady Eagles did their second admirable defensive job on Sprott, holding MMI’s star senior to 14 points, but Kelley (with 16) and Easley (with 13) both also finished in double figures. Samantha Suttles, with 6 points, and Adrienne Howze, with 2, also scored for the Lady Tigers.

Mallory Fox scored 12 points to lead the Lady Eagles, followed by Ozment with 9, Brandy Walden with 5, and Angie Tanner and Danielle Partridge each with 2.

MMI can wrap up the area title with a win against Warrior at home Monday night. Sumter steps out of area to face South Choctaw Monday and Pickens Academy Tuesday in preparation for the area tournament, which begins Friday.

MMI boys 77, Sumter Academy 37

The homestanding MMI Tigers used a suffocating second-half defensive effort to overcome a pesky Sumter Academy Eagles squad and preserve their perfect area record.

MMI had won the first match-up between the two teams comfortably, but a Joseph Reed three-pointer was followed by a Steven Ray basket and with 2:06 to play in the first quarter the visiting Eagles were ahead 11-8.

The Tigers responded with back-to-back baskets by Jovaris Smith that sparked an 8-0 run to close the quarter with MMI ahead 16-11. Sumter baskets by Drew Stuart, Reed, and Stuart again three times cut the MMI lead to one, and after several opportunities a Brandon Briggs score re-took the lead for Sumter 21-20 with 2:23 to play in the half.

It was all MMI from that point, however. The Tigers scored the final five points of the half to lead 25-21 at the break, and broke the game wide open by outscoring the Eagles by 20, 28-8, in the third quarter. Smith scored 11 points in the third period to lead the charge.

The Tigers then held Sumter to 8 points for a second straight quarter as they stretched the lead to its final margin.

Kendrick Moore scored 24 points for MMI, leading all scorers. Smith finished with 20, followed by Wendell Crews with 12, Sam Greene with 9, Jerome Smith with 8, Andrew Alexander with 2, and Amellio Fikes with 2.

Stuart put forth a gutty effort to lead the Eagles with 19 points. Briggs scored 9, Reed 5, and Ray 4 to round out the Eagle scoring.