BY AARON PATTERSON
It’s better to be late than not show at all. Some would say fashionably late is the best way to go, but by the time the Shooting Stars arrived at Palmer Arena for their opening game of the women’s Dustbowl tournament, fashion was the last thing on their minds. All they wanted to do was play ball.
Their tardiness might have taken a bit of the edge off as they advanced to Sunday’s championship game with a 27-25 win over the ECI Thunder.
“Some miscommunication with the director,” Shooting Stars coach Keith Peoples said of his team’s late arrival. “She told me we played at 7:30 p.m. yesterday, and then she sends me a text message today saying, ‘I made a mistake. You guys play at 6:30 p.m.’
“We were all at the high school and I got that text message, so I just told the kids, ‘Pack everything up and let’s head over. Hopefully they won’t forfeit our game.’ And they didn’t. It worked out good.”
The Shooting Stars are made up largely of all Schlarman Academy Hilltoppers, including junior high state champions Anaya Peoples and Ariel Scott. Despite arriving late, ECI Thunder coach Nick Hipsher chose to let the game go on.
Hipsher’s squad, which is also his Armstrong-Potomac High School team, believed it was going to win by forfeit just minutes before the opening tip. It was actually the second time in a span of less than 10 minutes that the ECI Thunder were on the brink of a forfeit win.
Just prior to the Shooting Stars’ arrival, Prime Tyme Cuts was mistakenly told it was to play in the 6:30 contest. Upon their late arrival with a just enough players, the scheduling error was realized.
“We told them we were leaving, and then two minutes later we tell them we’re playing,” Hipsher said. “I don’t think that (affected) the outcome of the game, but it just is what it is.”
The confusion didn’t get the ECI Thunder down as they took a 10-7 lead with seven minutes left on the running clock in the first half.
It was their final lead of the game until the Shooting Stars used a 12-2 run in the second half to pull even at 25-25 with one minute, 15 seconds to go. Schlarman Academy seventh-grader Anaya Peoples scored all six of her points in the second half, including the game winner with two seconds left on the clock. Eight of the Shooting Stars’ final 10 points were scored off of turnovers.
“They played well in the second half,” Hipsher said of the Shooting Stars. “We just turned the ball over. If we take care of the ball a little better, it’s a different game. I think there was about a two-minute stretch where they got eight points in about two minutes. When you turn the ball over, that hurts.”
Anaya Peoples accounted for six of the team’s 14 steals while Scott, who will be entering eighth grade at Schlarman Academy, scored a team-high nine points and had five rebounds.
“Those junior high players, they’re exciting to watch play,” said Keith Peoples, who also coaches the junior high team. “That’s the future of Schlarman — two state champions and hopefully they can repeat that again this season.”
Anaya Peoples and Scott have been playing AAU basketball all summer, but they got even more practice time on Tuesday night.
Prime Tyme Cuts was scheduled to take on Last Call in the evening’s final women’s game, but Last Call missed the call and was forced to forfeit for lack of players.
Quick on his feet, Peoples gathered his players back to the court in an exhibition contest against Prime Tyme Cuts. It ultimately served as a practice game in preparation for Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. women’s championship contest between Prime Tyme Cuts and Shooting Stars.
Prime Tyme Cuts won the exhibition 26-13. Breanna Keys led all scorers with nine points while Lynette Buggs scored seven. Scott once again led her team in scoring with eight points and had four rebounds and three steals.