The Pine Bluff Zebras edged the Little Rock McClellan Lions 65-58 for a home conference win Tuesday night at home.
Zebras senior Kendrick Thorn came out attacking the basket with the intention of scoring or getting to the foul line. The Lions proved that they came to play early as well, as they utilized their speed to get out in transition for easy buckets.
McClellan applied full-court pressure, causing the Zebra offense to sputter. Midway through the first quarter, the score was knotted at 8-8, and it would be close for the remainder of the first half.
What kept McClellan in it was their ability to beat the Zebras back down the court in transition. The Lions’ first four field goals all came from run-out opportunities, and that seemed to be what they were aiming to do.
Along with Thorn, junior point guard Kaleb Higgins and senior D.J. Martin provided offensive production for the Zebras. However, the entire first half was full of back and forward action between both teams, and neither could string together a run.
McClellan's length gave Pine Bluff problems as they were able to disrupt ball movement with deflections. The Zebras inserted Kezaron Washington to combat some of the size that the Lions posed.
McClellan senior guard J. Cunningham emerged as the alpha dog, as the offense flowed through him. Missed free throws and turnovers slowed the Zebras down, and the Lions took advantage. The lack of transition defense by the Zebras forced Dixon to call a timeout with 2:15 left in the first half.
Out of the timeout, Pine Bluff turned things up on the defensive end, and they took a 32-31 lead into the half.
To begin the third, the Lions went right at Pine Bluff senior forward Justin Tiller, causing him to pick up his fourth foul. From there, the Lions looked to drive the ball, but Washington stepped up as a defensive post presence for Pine Bluff.
Midway through the third quarter, Higgins connected on his fifth three of the game. Thorn followed that up with a steal and lay up to give the Zebras the largest lead of the game at six. Dixon then applied full-court pressure, and the intensity on defense increased for Pine Bluff. The Zebras ended the third going on a 13-3 run to take a 51-42 lead into the final quarter of play.
The Lions didn't go away, and they opened the fourth going on a run to make it a two-possession ball game. With 6:03 to play, Dixon called timeout after a in-bounds turnover committed by the Zebras.
McClellan forward Ian Robinson became the go-to guy for the Lions, as he went to the free throw line on three consecutive possessions.
However, Pine Bluff didn't stop scoring, and with 3:29 to play Higgins connected on a floater to put the Zebras up by seven.
Ian Robinson and Cunningham tried to will the Lions on a comeback, but the Zebras were able to play keep away and salvage the game. The Zebras knocked down their free throws to seal the deal and avoid the late push by the Lions.
Higgins led all scorers with 21 points. Robinson finished with a team high 16 points for McClellan.
The Pine Bluff Fillies (2-8, 1-1) secured their first conference win of the season Tuesday by taking down the Little Rock McClellan Lady Lions 54-35.
The Fillies got busy early by attacking the goal in their half-court sets, and by turning their defense into instant offense. Fast-break points came at a premium early, and the Fillies jumped out to an 11-3 lead. However, McClellan (3-10, 1-2) closed the opening quarter on a 4-0 run to pull within two possessions.
In the first quarter, it was Fillies guard Lydia Deshaizer driving and kicking to wide open shooters, and to begin the second it was Kierra Brice knocking down a deep two that sparked another run.
Lady Lions guard Dasha Brown served as the orchestrator for their offense, but Pine Bluff answered everything they were able to do on that end. Fillies sophomore Ro Willis was huge off of the bench with seven first half points.
The Lady Lions knocked down enough timely shots to only trail 25-18 heading into halftime.
The third quarter belonged to the Fillies, as they outscored the Lady Lions 14-4. Fillies guard Jaiden Woods connected on her fourth three pointer of the game in the first two minutes of the second half. By the end of quarter three, the Fillies were cruising, as they opened up a 17-point advantage.
A 6-0 run to start the fourth allowed the Fillies to put this one out of reach. The Fillies used a team effort to pull out the win, as a number of girls contributed.
Jaiden Woods led the Fillies with a game high 20 points. Kierra Brice chipped in with eight points, and Ro Willis finished with seven points. Dasha Brown was McClellan's leading scorer with 10 points.