Challenge assembles elite field

By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal

For the second straight week, North Pontotoc is hosting some of the state’s best girls basketball. The 16th Annual Robertson’s Sportswear Challenge features a nine-game lineup on Saturday.
“There’s going to be a lot of talent in the North Pontotoc gym,” North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery said. “There’s going to be as much talent in one day as there probably has ever been at North Pontotoc. We’re honored to host it.”
Some of North Mississippi’s best teams share the floor with some of the south’s top teams. Four of the Journal’s Top 10 teams will play.
Montgomery’s Lady Vikings host Belmont at 8:30 p.m. to close the event.
Six area teams face off in the day’s first three games, highlighted by No. 6 Itawamba AHS and No. 10 Tupelo at 12:30 p.m.
Starkville Academy brings a 30-0 record into its game against Memphis Home School at 2 p.m. At 4:30 p.m., Mississippi’s No. 2-ranked Southaven faces Alabama’s top-ranked Hoover Lady Bucs. The teams bring a combined 39-7 record.
Fifth-ranked Belmont (16-5) lost its game in the same building last week against No. 4 Pontotoc.
The Lady Cardinals have gone through a tough late road schedule, with Pontotoc, Ripley, Red Bay and North.
great test
“We’ve gone through it to prepare for district tournament,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said. “North Pontotoc has very good guard play and a post player that’s a challenge to guard. I know after playing North Pontotoc, we’ll be a better team.”
Defending Class 3A champion Belmont was getting 12 points per game from sophomore Elisiah Jones, but she has missed the last few games with a knee injury. Young Belmont is getting nearly 10 each from junior Natasha Jones and sophomore Katelyn Nunley. Higginbottom has been pleased with his how young players have stepped in, like freshman point guard Chloe Watson.
North Pontotoc, 15-6, is led by seniors Andrea Lewis (16.5) and Chelsea Mabry (14.6).
“It’s an honor to go up against a good tradition like they’ve got,” Montgomery said. “Year in and year out, they’re as good as anybody.”
brandon.speck@journalinc.com