RIPLEY – The Manchester girls’ basketball team is off to a much better start this winter than last.

The Lady Hounds won only a couple of games during the 2016-2017 season, but were able to claim their fifth win this season before Christmas by hanging on for a 37-31 win over Ripley on Thursday.

“We’ve got some really youthful talent and it’s exciting to watch them develop,” said Manchester coach Vohn Hoop. “I know his [Ripley coach Chris Coleman] record is what it is, but I don’t care – when you come down here he’s going to play that tough defense. Our kids are young. They’re not used to it. They’ll get used to it.”

Manchester got off to a fast start, claiming a 15-2 lead over the Lady Jays with the help of five points from freshman Sydnie Cox, four from freshman Emily Sweeney and four from junior Darrington White.

“We came in Monday night and had a real good fast start against Peebles and kept ourselves in the game up through halftime. Tonight we came out just as flat as could be,” said Coleman. “I thought the other three quarters we played really hard and were focused, but the first quarter we gave up 15 in it and 22 the rest of the game.”

The Lady Jays battled back in the second quarter and outscored the Lady Hounds, 10-6, behind four points from Jennifer Eichner and Tori Lewis, but entered the half trailing, 21-12.

The Lady Hounds got in foul trouble in the third quarter, most notably from Cox, who provides a size advantage against many teams at 6-foot-1. Freshman Brooke Kennedy and C.J. Hobbs also started getting into some foul trouble in the frame.

“The Cox kid, defensively she plays that middle in the zone, but I just have to have her on the floor. She got a couple fouls that were over the back type deals or pushes or whatever you want to call it that she probably got by with last year because she’s much bigger than everybody. We’ve talked about it. She understands it. It’s going to be hard to break, don’t get me wrong, because she’s done it for a long time, but she’s quite the talent,” said Hoop. “The Kennedy kid is the same way. She got her fouls when Cox was out and had to play the middle.”

With fouls piling up against Manchester, Ripley had an opportunity to chip away the deficit, but went just five-of-14 from the charity stripe in the quarter.

“I think we missed 13 overall they said,” said Coleman. “I don’t know that we can shoot anymore in practice, but we’ve got to do something.”

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Carlee Daulton was able to score the final seven points in the quarter for the Lady Jays, but Manchester still held a 31-24 lead heading into the fourth.

Kailee Fisher hit a shot for Ripley to open the frame and make it a five-point game. Following a timeout from Hoop, Manchester extended the lead with a steal and layup from C.J. Hobbs and a layup from Cox, making it 35-26 with 4:43 to go.

After the teams traded buckets to make it 37-28, Ripley’s Cailey Kirk made a layup while getting fouled and converted the free throw to make it 37-31, but that’s as close as the Lady Jays could get as the Lady Hounds walked away with their fifth win of the season.

“It builds character. We were stalling it the last four or five minutes of the game. I really thought we might increase our lead instead of decrease our lead, but we just did not make our free throws. The kids understand we have to make those. It’s good for them to be in that situation to have to stall for four or five minutes and overcome adversity as far as not making free throws and still hanging on to win,” said Hoop. “And give credit to our defense. Our defense was pretty good tonight.”

Manchester was led by Cox with nine points, while White and Kennedy each had six. Kennedy also added 13 rebounds for the Lady Hounds, who move to 5-4 with the win and will return to action at West Union for the McDonald’s Classic on Dec. 29.

Daulton led Ripley with 12 points, while Kirk finished with nine. The Lady Jays fall to 1-7 with the loss and play again on Dec. 29, when they take on New Richmond at the Ripley Holiday Classic.

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