Defending champs Pontotoc survive road test

By Blake Long/Special to the Journal

FULTON – Even with the experience of winning a gold ball on its side, Pontotoc’s seasoned roster had its nerves rattled in a close contest at Itawamba AHS on Friday night.
Trailing with just two minutes to play, the defending Class 4A champions used a late push to survive 58-54 over the Lady Indians to take sole possession of first place in Division 1-4A.
“I was a little nervous considering how good they were, but we just hung tight,” said Pontotoc guard Alex Brown, whose 3-pointer with 1:55 to play tied the game 51-51.
Marlee Hatcher put the Lady Warriors (15-3, 4-0) ahead for good with a layup 30 seconds later after Itawamba had retaken a 1-point lead.
Brown scored 10 points off the bench for Pontotoc, the Daily Journal’s fifth-ranked school. Lanikki McMillian made up for a poor shooting night from 3-point range from the Lady Warriors by scoring 25 points.
McMillian, a post player, and Brown knocked down the only two 3s of the game for Pontotoc.
“I don’t know that it was our rough night or their defense,” Lady Warriors coach Bill Russell said. “We’re tickled to death to come up here and slip away with a win.”
Itawamba makes push
By contrast, No. 7 Itawamba was on fire from behind the arc. The Lady Indians (11-5, 4-1) hit six after halftime, three by Kim Mallory.
Laura Coker’s field goal gave Itawamba AHS a 46-45 lead with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. Mallory’s final 3-pointer followed moments later to give her team its largest advantage of the half.
Coker led an Itawamba bench that scored 18 crucial points. Constance Dunn had 11 of those.
“We’re a balanced team through and through,” said Itawamba AHS coach Amanda Morrow. “We’ve got depth on the bench and they come out and just play.”
Mallory finished with 20 points to lead Itawamba. Pontotoc, which led 26-23 at the break, also got 12 from Hatcher.
(B) Pontotoc 67, Itawamba AHS 61: Anthony Townsend scored a game-high 28 points for Pontotoc, while Makel Hamer’s 17 led the Indians.