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Rams sweep Mustangs for perfect finishes

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Rucker defeats South twice

By Robert Howey

 The Rucker Rams garnered the gold in a sweet hardwood sweep Monday, Feb. 17 in the packed Lancaster High School gym.

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The Rams, in contrasting fashion, captured both ends of the hoops twin bill to down rival South Middle School.

The Rams, capping a second straight unbeaten season, rallied to edge the Mustangs, 39-37 to complete the middle school hoops sweep.

In the opener, the 12-0 Lady Rams registered a 40-20 win over the South girls to give them four straight undefeated hoops seasons.

In the nightcap, Rucker won a thriller with key free throws, but early on it didn’t appear that was going to happen.

The upset-minded Mustangs started fast for a 20-10 lead, but the Rams steadily rallied to deadlock the game at 23-all at the break.

Shallah Savoy, who led South with 19 points, hit 13 in the opening half to spur the Mustangs, who finished 11-2 – their only losses to the rival Rams.

SMS started strong to open the second half for a 27-23 lead on the way to a 31-27 edge after three periods.

The resilient Rams then used a 12-6 fourth-quarter charge to capture the comeback victory.

The game was nip-and-tuck to the wire, with Rucker gaining the lead for good on guard Damajae Ingram’s free throw for a 34-33 lead with 3:15 to play.

Ingram hit five of his seven points in the decisive final period.

Ingram’s two free throws with 1:26 left gave the Rams a 38-35 edge, but JiQuan Stover’s bucket closed the gap to one again, 38-37.

In a 26.4-second span, the Rams and Mustangs each missed crucial chances at the line before the Rams’ Tybo Scott hit one of two free throws with 1.4 seconds to seal Rucker’s two-point victory.

South was 4 of 16 at the line, while Rucker hit eight of 22 from the foul stripe.

“Our guys never quit and our fans kept us pumped up and in the game,” Rucker coach Lamont Elder said. “We’ve had some close games this season and having those games helped us tonight.

“I give South a great deal of credit because they battled us all the way tonight,” Elder said. “Jennifer Hardin did a great job having South ready to play.”

Desmond Stowers Jr., led the Rams with 10. Ingram scored seven and Kemarkio Cloud hit six. Stephon Taylor tallied five and Kendrick Shropshire scored four. Scott had three. Allen Cooper and Rae Sanders each tallied two points.

Savoy led South with 19 points. Stover hit eight and ZaQuarrious Brown had six.

Remington Totten and Keal Ballard had two points each.

“We played well and the game could have gone either way,” Mustangs coach Jennifer Hardin said. “We had some breakdowns at the end and didn’t rebound and hit our foul shots.”

In the opener, Rucker’s girls had an easier time as the 12-0 Lady Rams took the 20-point win.

Rucker started strong, building a 14-2 lead after one period, but the Lady Mustangs, who finished 8-5, rallied to close the gap to 16-7 in the second period.

The Lady Rams then used a 13-2 surge to gain a 29-9 halftime lead.

Rucker kept the upper hand in the second half to secure the win and its fourth consecutive unbeaten campaign.

“Our defense did great and our ball-handlers did a good job of getting the ball to our scorers,” Rucker coach Ashley Berryhill said. “It’s exciting to have an undefeated season.

“These girls are representative of the kids we have,” Berryhill said. “They work hard as a team and get along.”

Tykevia Mackey led Rucker with 15 points, 11 in the first half. She netted six in the opening period when the Lady Rams built their early edge.

Keiana Howze had 11 and Zaria Woods hit 10. Asia McCrorey scored four for Rucker.

South was led by Baylee Evans’ five points. Deasia Fisher had four and Summer Clinton netted three.

Jada Hood, Shanaya Winfield, Tashia Wade and Jaden McGriff each added two points for South.

“We played smarter tonight and didn’t give up,” South Middle girls coach Amanda Mings said. “We played well. We were mismatched in height, but we battled all the way.”