By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – Pontotoc used its long-distance shots and the steady hand of Quinn Ford to capture another big prize.
Ford led all scorers with 28 points and Marlee Hatcher, Kayla Russell and Alex Brown netted key 3-pointers and the Lady Warriors clinched the 4A North championship on Saturday with a 77-55 win against Lafayette.
“We came out a little bit sluggish in our shooting, but we played a whole lot better in the second half,” said Pontotoc coach Bill Russell, whose squad improved to 32-0. “We got the ball where we wanted it and defended them better in the second half. I’m extremely pleased with the outcome.”
Pontotoc used two key scoring runs to hold off Lafayette (15-14).
Hatcher’s 3-pointer in the second boosted a 15-0 run and the shots by Russell and Brown fueled a 10-0 stretch in the fourth for the Lady Warriors, who entered the North tournament as the Division 1-4A champions.
Ford, a senior guard, played with her left thumb taped, but it didn’t deter her shooting or ball handling. She sank a falling-away jumper in the final minute of the first to take a 17-15 lead that was never relinquished. Her steal and drive downcourt for a layup late in the third made it 54-39.
Ford’s slashing runs opened up the outside. Russell and Brown sank back-to-back 3-pointers for a 64-41 lead to begin the final frame.
LaNikki McMillian, a junior forward, logged 16 points and Hatcher tallied 15 – finishing with four 3-pointers – for the Lady Warriors.
Mariah Buford scored 13 and Mariah Hairston added 12 for the Lady Commodores, who travel to Jackson as the North’s No. 2 team.
“The shots that were falling for us in the first weren’t falling for us in the second,” said Lafayette coach Amy Sutton. “The easy buckets, shots around the rim, free throws, that could give us that spark, we just missed.”