The stage was set for a good night of basketball, especially for Abby Turner and Kellie Redmann. The Lemon Bay juniors on Thursday were celebrating their 17th birthdays. There were balloons in the stands wishing them a happy birthday and the team was fresh off a 57-21 thrashing of the Bulldogs of Ida Baker two nights earlier.

Here they were again facing the Bulldogs, only this time it was the DeSoto County Bulldogs ... and the game turned out to be anything but a party. The Bulldogs came out barking with an 8-0 run to open the game and stretched it to a 17-4 first-period lead. That 13-point deficit was pretty much the difference in the game, as the Bulldogs downed the Lady Mantas, 51-37.

Tanyah Smith led the Bulldogs with 20 points and got the rally started with a quick layup. That was followed by Aleaha Richardson’s steal and a bucket. Smith came back with the next bucket and the run was finished on an uncontested bucket by Carmen Cordero.

“You have to give credit to them (DeSoto); they made us play fast and were very physical,” said Lemon Bay coach Mike Young.

It was a physical game, for sure, as one Bulldog fouled out and three others had four fouls when the game ended. Each team had a player pick up a technical foul too. Freethrows were the difference in the game, as the Mantas must have felt like they were at a carnival shooting a basketball at an undersized rim. They went to the line 44 times and got only 15 points out of that.

“That was the difference in the game,” Young said. “It would have been a different game if we could have made even half of those shots. You can’t win a game when you miss almost as many shots as the number of points you score.”

DeSoto led at the end of each period and had fallen behind only once, and that came in the third period. The Mantas outscored the Bulldogs 13-5 in the second period and again in the third period, 13-12. When Lemon Bay took their only lead in the game at 26-25, the Bulldogs came back to immediately retake the lead.

Smith hit one of two freethrows (she was 14 for 18 in the game) to tie the game and Richardson’s three-pointer put DeSoto back in front to stay. Richardson had 18 points for the night. The Bulldogs put up 17 points in the fourth period, just as they had done in the first period, to pull away to a 51-37 win.

DeSoto County coach Jasmine Rudolph was pleased with her team’s performance.”This team was 1-0 on the JV in my first year coaching here, and now as seniors they start out 1-0 again. They were on fire tonight. We’re doing what we’ve got to do to be the best. Tanyah and Aleaha carried the team, but sometimes the team depends on them too much. I want other players to shoot too.”

I told Rudolph that I had to write a lot of sad stories last season, as the Bulldogs only managed six wins ... and hopefully this season that wouldn’t be the case.

Rudolph replied, “We’re going to keep you happy this year.”

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