By Adam Gore/GoreSports.net
HOLLY SPRINGS – Jeremy Bownes scored 18 points and Darius Dowdy added 12 more to lead Holly Springs to a 70-47 win over South Pontotoc in the play-in game of the MHSAA Class 3A North Tournament on Tuesday.
Holly Springs (23-4), the Daily Journal’s second-ranked Class 3A team, used a steady diet of their inside-outside game and fed off the energy of Bownes’ 14 first-half points to take a 33-18 lead.
South Pontotoc (16-14) did battle back in the closing minutes of the second quarter, behind back-to-back three-pointers from Austin Caylan, to make it a 35-30 game at the break.
The Hawks, the 2004 and 2005 Class 3A state champions, proved to be too much in the second half, holding the Cougars to four points in the third and expanding their margin to a 52-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We put a little pressure on them and got some turnovers to go up 15 to 18 points,” said Holly Springs head coach Naylond Hayes. “I think that made a big difference in the game for us.”
Seniors Jermaine Bean and Gary Lipsey tried to rally the Cougars in the fourth quarter, connecting on four-straight 3-pointers to make it a 61-43 contest with just more than three minutes left in the game, but the Hawks closed on a 9-4 run to advance.
“Holly Springs is so efficient and so sound defensively,” said South Pontotoc head coach Chris Vandiver. “It’s so hard to beat teams like that, and that’s why they’ve won so many games.”
Bean finished with a game-high 22 points for the Cougars.
Kentona Shipp and Terek James added 10 points each for Holly Springs.
Holly Springs will take on the winner of Tuesday night’s SV Marshall-Kossuth game on Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.
Booneville’s loss to Bailey on Tuesday night gave Holly Springs the hosting duties for the rest of the tournament.