By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
CLINTON – Marty Pettit saw the “gumbo” forming around Pontotoc’s goal and feared the worst.
In a crowded box, seventh grader Morgan Mansell fired a shot into an open net Saturday to give Northeast Jones a 2-1 sudden-death overtime victory against Pettit’s Lady Warriors in the MHSAA Class 4A state championship game.
“We talked all the time about keeping the box clean, but I saw all that gumbo in there,” Pettit said, standing on the chilled artificial turf at Clinton High School’s Arrow Field. “I think (Northeast Jones) had nine in the box and we had to mark them all.
“There was a lot of garbage in the box and (Mansell’s kick) found its way home.”
Mansell easily scored in a mad scramble following a corner kick. On the play the ball was being knocked around in the box, pulling Pontotoc’s keeper, Emily Munn, away from the mouth of the goal.
“All I wanted to do was score,” an excited but freezing Mansell said.
Pettit said the scouting report on Northeast Jones (17-1) said the Lady Tigers struggled with corner kicks.
“They hadn’t hit one all day,” he said. “When it came time to punch one in, they did.”
The teams battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation with Pontotoc (19-5-1) tying the score in the 48th minute on a goal by Lauren Howell off a crossing pass by Shelby Drope.
The teams played two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods before playing the first of two 5-minute sudden death periods.
Northeast Jones won the coin flip and took the wind for the first sudden-death period. The Tigers’ winning goal came with 2:55 remaining.
“I thought both teams were evenly matched,” Pettit said. “Our kids played their tails off today. I’m proud of them. (Northeast Jones) was fortunate to win the coin toss, got the wind and found the back of the net.”
All three goals scored were with the wind.
Morgan Pace gave Northeast Jones a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute when she slipped a short shot just inside the right post. On the play, the keeper’s view was blocked briefly by a scrambling teammate who was defending on the shot attempt.
Pace took four shots on goal in the first half for the Tigers.
An unidentified Northeast Jones player took a 35-yard shot seconds before the buzzer that just missed going in.
The Lady Warriors, playing into the wind, attempted just two shots in the first half – Carly Naugher and Emily Williams.