By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN – What looked like a mismatch at the offset turned into an upset Saturday night in Maben.
Previously winless East Oktibbeha battled back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to ultimately defeat West Oktibbeha 85-84 in double overtime.
"People got their money's worth," said East Oktibbeha head coach Barnett Robinson. "I've just been telling my team that it's not how you start, it's how you finish."
The Titans (1-10) trailed 73-70 with just 4 seconds to play in regulation.
Needing to go the length of the floor to get off a potential game-tying shot, East Oktibbeha's Casey Neal, who finished with a game-high 32 points, took the inbounds pass and hustled past midcourt, got an open look for three and drilled it to send the game to overtime.
"They left me too wide open," said Neal. "They didn't get a hand in my face so I knew I could make that shot. I don't really feel pressure and when they didn't get a hand in my face, I knew I could knock it down."
In overtime, Neal again came through.
After West Oktibbeha's Aaron Brownlee sank a basket to give the Timberwolves an 80-78 advantage with just 13 seconds to play, Neal answered at the other end to keep the game alive for another period.
Fittingly, it was also Neal who dealt the game's final blow.
With East Oktibbeha again trailing, this time 84-83 in the second extra quarter, Neal's basket with 20 seconds to play capped the scoring.
It was quite a dramatic turnaround for the Titans, who began the night on the wrong end of an 8-0 run and found themselves trailing 54-44 heading into the fourth quarter.
"I don't ever give up on my team," said Neal. "I know we can do it. We just have to put our minds to it so that's what happened and we came out with the 'W'."
Robinson hopes such a win lights a fire under his team as they play the remainder of their schedule.
"We've lost some games that we should have won and kind of started off (Saturday) playing the same way we have been in the first half," said Robinson. "Second half, we picked it up. Hopefully this will be a big momentum builder for us."
West Oktibbeha coach Danny Crawford says he saw the upset coming all along.
"It's ironic, I told my kids on Monday we were going to get beat (Saturday)," said Crawford. "When you've been coaching for eight or nine years, you can tell if your kids are ready to play or not.
"We played very dumb tonight. D-U-M-B. Dumb. If we're going to be a (Class A) contender, we've got to learn how to win these kind of ballgames."
West Oktibbeha, who fell to 11-3, was led in scoring by Kendrin Yates' 19 points.
West Oktibbeha 62,
East Oktibbeha 60
MABEN – At least for now, Shamia Robinson may be the best reserve in the state of Mississippi.
The West Oktibbeha girls basketball standout, who has yet to start a game this season due to her recovery from knee surgery, put up 37 points and hauled in 14 rebounds off the bench Saturday to give her team a home win over East Oktibbeha.
Robinson's play was definitely needed for a West Oktibbeha team that began the night by digging themselves an early hole.
East Oktibbeha (5-5) jumped on the Lady Timberwolves quickly, starting the game on a 9-0 run.
By the time Robinson got on the floor midway through the first quarter, the MSU commitment knew she had work to do.
"Honestly, I was scared," said Robinson. "I didn't think we were ready. We weren't focused."
The Lady Timberwolves (8-6) finally got their first basket with 2:45 left in the opening period on a layup by Robinson.
Still, West Oktibbeha trailed for the entire first half against a very game Lady Titans team that led 27-24 at the intermission.
"We weren't rotating enough in our 2-3 zone," said West Oktibbeha assistant coach Kevin Bailey. "They weren't dropping down from the post like we should and we were getting to their shooters too slowly."
Even with West Oktibbeha's slow start, the game turned into a slugfest of sorts after halftime.
Just 57 seconds into the third quarter, Joslynn Bedford, who finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, scored the basket that gave West Oktibbeha its first lead of the contest.
That lead ended up changing hands six more times in the third quarter alone, contributing to a second half that had 12 total lead changes.
"It was just a great game," said Robinson. " (East Oktibbeha) has a great team. They are way better than last year or the year before. They play as a team now."
Quanisha Doss led the Lady Titans with 22 points. Shondra Nichols added 19 and Lydia Stevenson tallied 12.
In a fitting end for cross-county rivals, the matchup truly came down to the final second.
Following a pair of free throws by Brenesha Brownlee that gave the Lady Timberwolves a 62-60 advantage, the Lady Titans had one final chance with 9 seconds left.
East Oktibbeha drove the ball the length of the floor before Kelcie Lanier was fouled, sending her to the free throw line with the chance to tie the game.
Lanier missed her first attempt, then intentionally missed her second in hopes of a tip-in.
It didn't happen.
The ball trickled off the hands of several would-be rebounders as the last second drained off the clock.