By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Danielle Blakney’s 3-pointer zipped through the net with 2 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in Friday’s Division 1-4A game against Pontotoc.
It was the Tishomingo County senior perimeter bomber’s lone field goal in her team’s 69-47 loss to the unbeaten Lady Warriors.
Blakney learned that it’s tough to score when Pontotoc sophomore guard Kayla Russell’s in your Nikes the entire night.
“It’s very frustrating,” said an exhausted Blakney, who is recovering from the flu. “(Russell) played some good defense. She’s one of the best defensive players I’ve had on me all year.”
Russell, the daughter of Lady Warriors coach Bill Russell, usually draws the assignment of guarding an opponent’s top shooter.
“Defense is my favorite part of the game,” Russell said, then smiled. “I like the challenge. I knew (Blakney) was a good shooter. I was told she had made 40 3-pointers this season.”
While Blakney was controlled on the outside, Tishomingo County (11-7, 3-2), got productive scoring games from its inside players – Anna Claire Griffin, 16 points, and Emilee Henderson, 11 points.
Back-to-back field goals by Tishomingo County’s Griffin and Henderson to start the third quarter tied the score at 29-29.
Pontotoc (16-0, 3-0) responded with a 15-5 run to build a 44-34 lead. Anna Crestman, Marlee Hatcher and Russell all sank 3-pointers in the scoring spurt. Quinn Ford, who scored 15 points to share scoring honors with Russell, added a fade-away jumper in her team’s offensive surge.
Pontotoc expanded its lead to 54-39 by the end of the third quarter.
The loss – the fourth in a row for the Lady Braves – was also the 502nd career victory for Pontotoc’s Russell. He reached his milestone 500th win Dec. 30 against Neshoba Central, but was recognized for his achievement following the Tishomingo County game.
“It’s pretty special,” said Russell, 46, who has a career record of 502-219 in 23 seasons at Pontotoc and Senatobia. “It gives me even more respect for guys like Norris Ashley (Ingomar) and Jimmy Guy McDonald (Houlka). I don’t see how they’ve done it.”
Ashley and McDonald both have 1,000-plus career victories.
In the boys’ game, Pontotoc edged the Braves 67-65.