Balance helps deliver victory

By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal

ECRU – North Pontotoc found enough open space to pull out a close game against Cleveland.
Four scored in double figures for the Lady Vikings as they held off the Lady Wildcats for a 66-59 win in the opening round of MHSAA Class 4A North State playoffs on Monday night.
McKinnon Skeen led all scorers with 17 points for Cleveland – including five 3-pointers, but North Pontotoc didn’t need any long distance shots.
North’s Arriann Henry scored 16 points, followed by Andrea Lewis (15), Chelsea Mabry (14) and Brittany Seale (11), all of which came in the paint or on short jumpers.
“The back side was open,” said North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery. “They were trapping us and when we made our cuts, whoever was on the back side was open. My girls just hung in there and found a way to pull it out.”
North Pontotoc led 27-22 at halftime, then Cleveland went on an 11-4 stretch early in the third to tie at 33-all on one of Skeen’s 3-pointers with 5:16 remaining in the period.
Davis, Henry respond
The Lady Vikings (23-6) responded with a 16-0 run, sparked by a pair of assists from Tia Davis inside to Henry for baskets off the glass.
“With the play we were running, me and Chelsea were left open after everybody made their turns,” said Henry, a senior.
“Everything was falling into place for us, and when that’s happening, we’re going.”
North never trailed again after Henry’s basket with 4:59 left in the third.
The Lady Wildcats (16-15) regrouped for a big push midway through the fourth, coming within 58-57 on a free throw by Taylor Collins with 1:40 remaining.
Seale turned back the rally with a basket followed by free throws with 35 seconds left.
“We were trying to wear them down, and they just responded well,” said Cleveland coach Jenny McCullough. “My girls gave their very best, though.”