By JOEL McNEECE
The Calhoun City Wildcats put an exclamation point on their number one ranking in Class 2A Saturday night with a 71-66 win over Okolona.
The Chieftains entered the game as the top ranked team in the state in Class 1A and the toughest opponent remaining on the Wildcats' regular season schedule.
It was a back-and-forth game for much of the night. Calhoun City led by three after the opening period, but Okolona had a 2-point advantage at the half.
The Wildcats’ press began working for them in the third period as they rallied to take a four point lead heading into the final period. 'City pushed the lead to 10 early in the fourth behind the play of Demarius How-ard, who scored 21 points on the night.
David Gardner, who led all scorers with 31 points, including seven three-pointers, led the Chieftains' rally as they closed to within three with less than 10 seconds to play.
Gardner's long-range three to tie the game rimmed out and the Wildcats hit Charlie Easley on a break-away layup to put the game away.
"Our defense was the key in the second half," Calhoun City Coach Darren Coffey said. "I really stressed that at halftime. This was a big win for us. Hopefully it will give us the momentum we need heading into the playoffs."
In addition to Howard's 21, other Wildcat scorers were Easley 16, Ricky Whaley 11, and Tabarrius Coffey 11.
Friday night the Wildcats made easy work of East Webster in a 83-52 win. Easley and J.R. Jennings scored 12 points each and Traveous Moore added 10.
Wildcat Head Coach Darren Coffey said the number one ranking is a welcomed reward.
“You've got to have a dream and a goal and ours has been to get to the state championship,” Coffey said. “We want the expectations that comes with a number one ranking.”
The Lady Wildcats won one of two. They defeated East Webster 45-20 Friday night.
Yasmine Pulliam led with 12 points as the Lady 'Cats outscored East Webster 31-9 in the second half for the blowout win.
Saturday at Okolona the Lady 'Cats opened a lead at the half, but couldn't hold on as the Lady Chieftains won 64-55.
Sarica Coffey led Calhoun City with 17 points. Miesha Armstrong added 16 and Yasmine Pulliam scored 12 points.
Calhoun City’s remaining schedule consist of home games with West Lowndes and Vardaman this Tuesday and Friday. The Tuesday game with West Lowndes is the final region game of the season.
Next week they conclude the season with road trips to Vardaman and Houston.
The region tournament begins Feb. 8 and will be played at Bruce.