By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Neshoba Central coach Fred Morris knows why Pontotoc’s Lady Warriors will enter 2012 with a 14-0 record – their relentless full-court pressure.
Pontotoc, which misfired at times defensively in the second quarter, made some needed halftime adjustments with its press to leave the once-sizzling Lady Rockets on the launch pad.
“They wore us down; that’s what good teams do,” Morris said. “Our girls got tired.”
The press-powered Lady Warriors outscored Neshoba Central 20-2 in the third quarter on third way to a convincing 56-41 victory on Friday night against their once-beaten visitors in the Jingle Jam Classic.
“We didn’t have a good rotation in our press in the second quarter and they made an adjustment in their press offense,” Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said.
In the second quarter, Neshoba Central (12-2), behind the scoring of Quantel Deaton and T’Keya Backstrom, erased a 17-10 Pontotoc lead with a 17-8 run that gave the visiting team a 27-25 halftime lead.
Pontotoc answered with a vengeance after the break.
“We made adjustments in our press at halftime,” Russell said. “In the third quarter we jumped on them and outscored them 20-2.
“That was the difference in the game.”
Sophomore guard Kayla Russell, who led the Lady Warriors with 17 points, connected on two of her five 3-pointers in her team’s third-period run. Quinn Ford, the Ole Miss signee, scored six of her 15 points in the quarter.
“We picked it up on offense and defense in the second half,” Ford said. “Coach (Russell) said we weren’t hustling in the first half.”
Deaton and Backstrom scored 13 points apiece to lead Neshoba Central.
Russell likes what he’s seen from his young team in the first half of the season.
“I didn’t think at the beginning of the season we’d be 14-0 at Christmas,” he said. “We’ve played some pretty good teams.
“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but I’m really pleased with where we are right now.”
In an earlier boys game, St. Benedict, Tenn., defeated Neshoba Central 57-49 in overtime. Southaven played host Pontotoc in the late boys game.