High school basketball: Wildcats prepare for Hudson following district opener win

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Jan. 17—PALESTINE — A 29-point fourth quarter helped the Palestine Wildcats (1-0) complete an exciting comeback in their district home opener Friday against the Center Roughriders, 57-46.

A packed crowd filled the stands for the Wildcats district opener Friday night. After already seeing the Ladycats dominate Center the game before, it was the Wildcats turn to be center stage. As usual, Carlton Wiggins found his rhythm early — opening the game with a wing three to give them a 3-0 lead.

After Center responded with a three, an Elijah Cook rebound and put back regained the lead 5-3. Another Center basket retied the game until a behind-the-back pass from Taj'Shawn Wilson to J'Corey Jackson pushed them back in front 7-5. From there, Center shot out on a 6-0 run from a Jackson three neutralized their run. The Wildcats trailed 11-10 at the end of the first.

The second quarter began with a dime from Dreyon Barrett to Elijah Cook. However, found another offensive burst as an 11-2 run to start the quarter pushed their advantage to 22-12. A Wilson and-1 ended Center's run as he was able to convert at the free-throw line. Center scored the final two baskets of the half as they went into the locker room leading 26-17.

"We slept through about two and a half quarters," head coach J.J. Johnson said. "Center is tough. They're a tough zone team and it's hard to get shots. In the first half, we were just unable to get shots. Second half we speeded things up because we knew otherwise, we wouldn't have a chance."

The Wildcats were unable to make much of a dent in their deficit during the third. Barrett began to find himself as he scored seven of Palestine's 11 points in the quarter, although they still trailed 40-28 at the end of the quarter.

"We were all playing very passive," Johnson said. "Fourth quarter we started playing how Wildcats do. We began flying around the court and getting those easy buckets."

As the final quarter began, it was immediately apparent a switch had flipped for Palestine. A Cook offensive rebound and layup was the starting point of what became a 13-0 run. Two technical foul free throws from Barrett, followed by a tough contested mid-range jumper, brought him to 15 points in the contest. The Center's offense continued to stagnate as momentum surged for Palestine. A Center turnover ended with a fast break layup for Wilson.

Another empty offensive possession for the Roughriders was answered with a corner three from Wiggins, who had not scored since their opening possession of the first quarter. Active hands from Wiggins on the opposite end resulted in another Center turnover. Wiggins pushed the ball up to an open Barrett for an emphatic jam that gave the Wildcats a 41-40 lead with 4:55 left in the game.

Center was forced to burn their first timeout of the half as the crowd erupted into a frenzy. Another layup from Barrett following the break push their lead to 43-40 before Center tied things up with a wing three. However, it was little they could do to contain Palestine's scorching offense.

Patient ball movement on Palestine's next possession resulted in Wiggin's second three of the quarter and gave his team a 46-43 lead. Palestine would not surrender the lead from that moment as they outscored Center 11-3 over the final three minutes of the game.

Nine fourth-quarter points from Barrett brought him to 22 points on the night. Wilson was their second-leading scorer with 10. Wiggins rounded out the group with nine. The Wildcats continue their homestand Tuesday as they host the Hudson Hornets.

"Last year, we started on the road and loss those two, so to start with a home victory is great," Johnson said. "You have to take care of home, especially with Center being a great team. We always thought it would come down to us, Center and Hudson. So to get a game up is awesome."

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