By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – When Marlee Hatcher reflected on Pontotoc’s latest win against its county rival, she believed the way it started made all the difference.
The sophomore scored a game high 17 points to lead the Lady Warriors to a 59-49 win against North Pontotoc in the MHSAA Class 4A North finals on Saturday night.
Both teams had already secured berths in the state championship tournament.
“We started out the game pretty good and kind of jumped out on them,” Hatcher said. “They did come back, but we kept calm and kept pushing forward and never gave up.”
Pontotoc (29-3) opened with a 7-0 run through the first five minutes of the match and never trailed.
The Lady Warriors led 28-14 at the break and were in front 42-33 heading into the final frame.
Hatcher sank apair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that turned back a rally by the Lady Vikings earlier in the period.
Brittany Seale’s assist inside to Arriann Henry pulled North Pontotoc within four points (45-41) with 4:07 remaining in regulation.
Kayla Russell and Hatcher followed with long-distance shots and Olivia Owen added a runner that pushed the defending state champs ahead again by 10 (53-43) with 1:48 left.
“The first time we played them, we hit 12 3s and we kind of struggled tonight, but we did enough to pull it off,” said Pontotoc coach Bill Russell, whose team won their regular-season match (79-47) on Dec. 10.
“You can live by the 3 and die by the 3,and tonight we got a couple to ice the game for us.”
Russell finished with 14 points for Pontotoc, and Lanikki McMillian added 13 – including a pair of 3-pointers in the first half.
Chelsea Mabry, a senior post-player, scored 14 to pace North Pontotoc (25-7).Andrea Lewis logged 12 andTiaDavis tossed in 11.
“My girls got a taste of what they’ll see in Jackson,” said North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery.
“Everybody is dang good now and you can’t make mistakes and expect to play.”