By Gene Phelps / NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – New Site worked in practice on handling Itawamba AHS’s effective zone press prior to Monday’s game in the Baldwyn Rotary Tournament.
“We knew they were going to do it,” New Site coach Byron Sparks said.
It didn’t matter.
IAHS, using a ball-hawking halfcourt trap out of its press, rattled the Lady Royals to start the second half. The end result was a 53-43 comeback win for the defensive-minded Lady Indians.
“Our guards just didn’t make smart passes,” a frustrated Sparks added.
Itawamba AHS (12-1), which played a sluggish first half, got the spark it needed from its defense. Trailing 22-18 at halftime, the Lady Indians outscored the Lady Royals 17-6 in the third quarter to charge to a 35-28 lead.
Lady Indians coach Amanda Morrow said she didn’t know why she waited so long to turn up the defensive pressure on her Prentiss County foe.
“I can’t say why,” she said, shaking her head. “I thought we needed a burst of energy. That gave us a spark.
“Our pressure was the difference in the game.”
At one point during a press-fueled 13-2 run in the third quarter, a frustrated Morgan Pearson from New Site shoved Itawamba’s Laken McKnatt after losing the ball on a half-court steal.
Pearson, who led her team with 17 points, was whistled for a foul.
McKnatt scored 20 points and hit three 3-pointers to lead the Lady Indians. Ally McDonald added 11.
Christy Clark, who battled foul trouble, scored 10 for New Site (10-3), which is playing without all-state guard Krystal Jackson, who is sidelined for the season.
New Site held the upper hand in a sluggish first half – one that featured a lot of missed scoring opportunities and turnovers on both ends – for both teams.
“I don’t want to say we were rusty,” Morrow said. “I don’t like blaming it on that. We just came out really slow. We had a little confidence talk at halftime.
“In the second half they played like they can play. We’ve got to get back in the gym and work. The second half of our schedule is pretty stout.”
IAHS plays in Division 1-4A with the state’s top-ranked team, New Albany, Pontotoc and Tishomingo County. The Lady Indians, 3-0 in the division, return to league play Jan. 4 at New Albany.
New Site, which lost to Newton in the state championship game last season, opens Division 1-2A play Jan. 7 against Ashland.
(B) Baldwyn 74, IAHS 36
Reggie Patterson scored a game-high 25 points to lead the host Bearcats to an easy victory.
Baldwyn plays Hatley today in the tournament, then returns to its home court Thursday for a make-up game against Aberdeen.
(G) Baldwyn 57, So. Pontotoc 49
Ayana Ragin scored 27 points to lead the Lady Bearcats. C.C. Costilow scored 21 for South Pontotoc.
• Game summaries, Page 2B