By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Two of Northeast Mississippi’s girls basketball powers – New Albany and Lafayette – battle tonight in the North Mississippi 4A tournament semifinals … with the loser going home.
New Albany (25-4), ranked No. 1 in the state all season, earned its berth with an easy 71-30 win Thursday night against Noxubee County in the tournament’s quarterfinals at Pontotoc High School.
Lafayette (25-5) defeated Kosciusko 83-53 to reach the elimination semifinals.
“It’s a shame these two teams have to play this early in the tournament, but that’s the way the bracket fell,” New Albany coach John Stroud said. “We go back to last year with Lafayette. They have most of that team back.
“It’s going to be a tough game.”
New Albany beat Lafayette, 76-74, in double overtime last season in the North championship game.
The rematch is scheduled for 6 p.m. In the other semifinal at 7:30, Pontotoc plays Byhalia, a 68-65 winner over Houston.
– New Albany 71, Noxubee County 30: Jazmine Spears scored 28 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and fell just short of a triple-double with eight assists to led the Lady Bulldogs.
Spears scored 23 points in the first half as New Albany cruised to a 43-18 halftime lead.
Senior post player Micha Washington added 20 points and had 14 rebounds for the winners while guard Kebrina Lucas added 10 points.
“Spears and Washington did a good job with the high, low,” Stroud said. “I thought our defense created some easy baskets.
“We played well. It was a good team win. You don’t think it would be this easy in the second round of the North half, but we’ll take it.”
Ty-Neisa Spann scored nine points to lead Noxubee County (18-11).
Lafayette coach Amy Sutton believes the game could be a tough matchup size-wise for her club.
“We lost some size (from last year). They’ve got two 6-footers in Spears and Washington,” she said. “Jazmine (Spears) moves well without the ball. We’re going to have to have some players step up.”
– (G) Pontotoc 89, Hump-hreys County 45: Ebony Brinker scored 22 points to pace the host Lady Warriors (23-5), who led 42-17 at halftime.
– (G) Lafayette 83, Kosciusko 53: Four players – Shaquilla Isom, Nikki McChristian, Brianna Fisher and Mykira Buford all scored 14 points each to lead Lafayette (25-5).
– (G) Byhalia 68, Houston 65: Crystal Rayford connected on two free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining to help Byhalia end Houston’s season and advance to play Pontotoc today.
The Lady Hilltoppers, led by Ty-nita Baker with 22 points, trailed by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter, but battled back.