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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee’s Lindan Oliver (11) draws a foul against Stanhope Elmore’s Tamia Young (35).

After falling behind for the first time with 5:14 to go, the Stanhope Elmore girls basketball team turned it up a notch on the defensive end and held Tallassee to two points the rest of the way to secure a 37-31 victory Monday night. The Mustangs allowed just two field goals in the final three quarters as Tallassee had only three players get on the scoresheet and Stanhope topped its cross-county rivals for the second time in as many weeks.

“We actually went to a different defense in this game,” Stanhope Elmore coach Kelvin Stokes said. “We used a 3-2 this time because of their shooters. We rotated well and made it hard for them. We still have to get better but we’re figuring it out.”

Stanhope Elmore (3-3) was shorthanded as Jayden Thomas, who scored 19 points in the teams’ first meeting, was out and team captain Kaleiah Hollis went down with an injury early in the third quarter. The offensive focus was shifted to Brooke Burkette but Tallassee’s defense locked in on her and forced the Mustangs into some bad shots to keep the game close.

“The girls are getting in better shape and they move around the ball a lot,” Tallassee coach Harold Harris said. “This is what we’re going to have to do in order to win. We’re getting better so we’re going to be okay and we should be in the hunt once area gets here.”

Tamiya Young stepped up the most for the Mustangs, scoring eight of her team-high 12 points in the second half and securing eight rebounds. Burkette added seven points while five other players recorded a field goal.

“We have to score more points,” Stokes said. “Tallassee did a good job defending but we have to put the ball in the basket a little bit better. It was very important for other girls to step up and help us out. They got that experience of closing out games.”

Tallassee (1-11) could not find a rhythm on offense all night as the Tigers were held below 35 points for the fourth straight game and they saw their losing streak extend to eight games. Tallassee scored 14 points in the opening quarter but was held to just three free throws in the second as the game went into the break tied 17-17. Lindan Oliver and Brooke Royster each hit a 3-pointer in the second half but those were the only field goals for the Tigers in the final 16 minutes as the rest of their points came from the free-throw line.

“We were moving the ball and looking inside more but it was just one of those nights,” Harris said. “We didn’t get much help from the refs but that happens. It is what it is.”

Oliver finished with a game-high 15 points, including making six free throws in the fourth quarter to keep the game in reach. Royster added eight points while Sinclair Cole scored the other eight for Tallassee.

The game marked the final tune-up for both teams before this week’s Elmore County Tournament in Eclectic. Both teams will match up with a big rival as Stanhope meets Wetumpka for the first time and Tallassee takes on Elmore County for third time but the Tigers are hoping for a different result this time.

“We’re going in to win that one,” Harris said. “We’re playing Elmore County and they have beaten us twice already so we’re going to play hard. Our girls are up for the challenge.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.