By Gene Phelps
PONTOTOC – What if you were told Pontotoc’s Lady Warriors would make 1-of-6 3-pointers and still win a basketball game?
“That usually doesn’t happen,” Pontotoc senior guard Erin Claire Stegall said.
Stegall, the Lady Warriors’ sixth man, sank her team’s lone 3-pointer from the baseline with 3 minutes, 25 seconds remaining Tuesday to help lead Pontotoc to a hard-fought 42-35 victory over Itawamba AHS in a Division 1-4A game.
Pontotoc (21-4, 8-1), entered the game ranked No. 2 in Northeast Mississippi by the Daily Journal. IAHS (18-6, 6-3) is ranked No. 3. The Lady Warriors beat the Lady Indians 66-63 in a Jan. 17 game in Fulton.
Olivia Owen, who scored a game-high 16 points, had eight in the first half for Pontotoc. Marlee Hatcher added 15, including 12 in the second half.
“We knew we had to attack them and be physical,” Owen said. “It was a close game the whole time. We knew we had to score and get back and stop them.”
Owen passed the ball to Stegall prior to her late – and team’s lone – 3-pointer. “Olivia was driving in and kicked it to me … I was open,” Stegall said.
“We were not looking for (a 3-pointer) at all. If we have a good look we’ll take it,” Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said, then laughed.
Russell, whose team usually shoots 30-something 3-pointers per game, expected a struggle against the visitors.
“I knew it was going to be a physical game and I knew they were going to take away the 3-point shot,” he said. “I felt like we could press them, but in the first half I wanted to slow the tempo and make sure we didn’t have anybody in foul trouble the second half.”
The Lady Warriors, pressured on the perimeter by the Lady Indians, scored just four field goals – all layups – in the first half and trailed 15-11 at halftime.
IAHS took a 23-21 lead in the third quarter on a Constance Dunn’s baseline drive for a layup. She finished with 13 points.
Pontotoc rallied in the fourth quarter, hitting 14-of-18 free throws.