Spears towers in battle of unbeatens

PONTOTOC – Monday’s lineup in Pontotoc’s annual Battle of the Best all-girls basketball tournament featured a matchup between unbeatens.
New Albany, behind 24 points and 15 rebounds from its 5-foot-11 freshman post player Jazmine Spears, upped its record to 13-0 with a 66-46 victory against Lafayette.
The Lady Commodores, whose record dipped to 11-1, got a 21-point effort from junior guard Shaquilla Isom, but it wasn’t enough to counter the Lady Bulldogs’ powerful inside game.
Micha Washington, a 6-foot junior, rallied from a foul-plagued first half to score 14 points and finished with 18 for New Albany.
“Micha was the difference in the third quarter,” New Albany coach John Stroud said. “When teams press us, she can score layups.”
Spears scored 18 of 24 points in the first half to help the Bulldogs build a 38-22 halftime lead. She finished with three steals, two blocks, two assists and one deflection.
“Spears played a great game,” Lafayette coach Amy Sutton said. “Our post players didn’t respond.”
Spears has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game this season in leading New Albany to wins against heavyweights H.W. Byers, Briarcrest (Tenn.) Christian and Columbus.
“She rebounded well tonight,” Stroud said. “Our big girls can score inside, easily, if we can take care of the ball. We did tonight. We only had 10 turnovers. That’s good for us.”
New Albany raced to a 16-4 lead in the first period behind Spears and Washington, but Lafayette rallied late to cut the deficit to 20-15 thanks to the perimeter game of play of Isom.
Spears took control in the second period, along with guard Kabrina Lucas, who scored seven of her 10 points in the quarter to give the Bulldogs their 16-point halftime advantage.
“The difference between us an New Albany is not 20 points,” Lafayette’s Sutton said, shaking her head. “They came out ready to play. We looked liked we’d been home enjoying our Christmas break.
“This was not a reflection of our team. We definitely can perform better than we did tonight.”
Nikki McChristian added 11 points for the Commodores.
Potts Camp falls
Another unbeaten team took one on the chin in the late game when Pontotoc defeated Potts Camp, led by Ole Miss commitment Kenyotta Jenkins, 60-57.
Jenkins scored 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Cardinals, now 13-1, undefeated. She had an opportunity to tie the game at the buzzer, but her 3-point attempt bounced off the rim.
Rhandi Ball, who scored 18 points, sealed the win for the host Warriors when she connected on both ends of a one-and-one with five seconds remaining.
Ebony Brinker’s 25 points led Pontotoc, 11-2, and all scorers.
In Monday’s early games, South Pontotoc edged Hernando 46-45, North Panola topped West Union 46-27 and Houston beat Senatobia 50-38.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal