ANDERSON — Four teams in search of the same goal took to the floor Tuesday night as Anderson hosted Elwood in an opening-round doubleheader of the Madison County Basketball Tournament.
For the Lady Tribe, it was a chance to begin its quest for a repeat championship while the Indians were looking to get back to the championship level. Both had good starts as the girls downed Elwood 72-50 while the boys triumphed 56-42 to advance to the semifinals.
The Indians established control early over the visiting Panthers, leading 16-4 after one quarter and 33-16 at halftime. Nine players scored in the first half for the Indians, who shot 15-of-26 from the field. Elwood struggled shooting in the first half, hitting just one field goal in the first quarter, and the Panthers did not score until nearly half of the quarter had expired. The Panthers finished 4-of-21 from the floor in the half and turned the ball over nine times.
The flow of the game changed in the second half, and Elwood scrapped its way back into the game.
Neither team got untracked early in the second half as the teams played three scoreless minutes. Jack Bennett opened the scoring, hitting a bucket inside and drawing a foul.
Anderson led by as many as 17 in the third quarter although Elwood did get to within 12 with under three minutes to go.
Elwood clawed its way back to within 10 in the fourth quarter, but Anderson sank nine of 14 free throws to keep the Panthers at bay.
“When you play teams like Elwood, teams that you don’t see a lot, it’s difficult because a lot of the time kids listen to you but don’t listen to you,” said Anderson coach Jeff Howard. “They have their preconceived notion of who Elwood is and what they are going to do. Teams like that are going to come in and be scrappy and loose. They have nothing to lose.”
Orlando Graham led the Indians with 11 points off of the bench as Howard rotated several players in and out of the lineup.
The Indians were whistled for 21 fouls while the Panthers were hit for 19, and the teams combined to shoot 40 free throws.
Marquavius Beverly had eight for Anderson (2-6). Ty Jae Rayford and Zakarius Milhouse had seven apiece.
Bennett led Elwood (3-6) with 15 points. Caleb Jones had 10, and Seth Mireles finished with five points and nine rebounds.
The Lady Tribe began defense of its Madison County Girls Basketball Tournament title with a solid start.
“I was telling the girls, ‘Let’s just come out and play our game,’” said Anderson coach Shannon Cleckley. “Come out, be aggressive on defense, steal the ball, finish and we were able to do that. I was very happy with how we started the game. We got a little lax there in the second, but the start was very good and set the tone.”
The Lady Tribe (9-7) went up 19-5 on its way to a 29-13 lead after one quarter. The combination of pressure defense and good ball movement on offense was the key for the Lady Tribe.
Anderson forced eight first-quarter turnovers, and six players scored for the Lady Tribe.
Elwood was able to cut the lead to 10 early in the second quarter, but the hosts went on a quick 6-0 run and eventually pushed the edge to as much as 22 before the break. Anderson led by 32 in the fourth before Elwood closed on a 12-2 run.
Kenigia Hamilton was a force inside for the Lady Tribe, scoring 21 points and snaring 12 rebounds in just under three full quarters of play. Dee Dee Sutton scored nine of her 14 points in the first quarter to help build the advantage. Antaria Hammond added 14 for the Lady Tribe while Stasha Hamilton had 11 points.
Kenzie Wilson tied Hamilton with 21 points and had 13 rebounds for Elwood (5-12). Gabby Leavell had 11 points while Taylor Jones had 10 points and five rebounds.
The Lady Tribe will host Liberty Christian on Wednesday in the second game at the Tepee. A win would give them a chance to defend the title Friday on their home floor.
“Honestly I told the girls it’s on them,” said Cleckley. “They are defending champs, you are on your home floor, what else do I need to say? We don’t want someone else cutting down the nets on our home floor.”
The Indians will travel to Lapel on Thursday to take on Liberty Christian in the second semifinal.
“At the end of the day our goal was to win this tournament, and we are still on course to do that,” said Howard.