By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – North Pontotoc’s opponent today in the MHSAA Class 4A state tournament semifinals – Bay St. Louis – is considered the state’s best team.
The Lady Tigers (34-0) have two of the state’s top players in 5-foot-11 Christa Reed and 6-2 Bretta Hart.
Despite the odds, North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery says his Lady Vikings (25-7) plan to show up for the 6:30 p.m. game at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“We’ve got a chance,” he said. “That’s why you play the game.”
However, the coach does admit, “They’ve been beating people to death.”
North Pontotoc is coming off a solid run in the North Mississippi tournament. The Lady Vikings beat Itawamba AHS and lost to defending state champion Pontotoc in the title game. Against Pontotoc, the Lady Vikings pulled to within four points in the fourth quarter.
The difference in North Pontotoc’s loss was two 3-pointers by Pontotoc’s Kayla Russell and Marlee Hatcher.
“Those 3-pointers broke our backs,” Montgomery said.
Pontotoc (30-3), one win away from the 4A state championship game, plays Raymond at 1 p.m. today in the semifinals. The Lady Warriors bring a 19-game win streak to the Big House.
Despite his team’s postseason success, Pontotoc coach Bill Russell is concerned about his team’s offense.
“We haven’t shot the as well as we need to this week,” he said.
Defensively, don’t expect the Lady Warriors to give up their man-to-man, full-court pressure style. Although, Russell notes, it’s hard to wear a team down this late in the season.
“Most players are in good shape,” he said.
Pontotoc looks to Kayla Russell and Hatcher, along with post player LaNikki McMillian.
McMillian “has extended her range,” Bill Russell said. “She can hit the 3-pointer, so post players have to come out and guard her.”
In the nightcap at 8 today, Corinth’s boys play Laurel in the 4A semifinals. The Warriors are hoping for a win and a possible rematch with defending state champion Amanda Elzy.
TITLE GAMES AHEAD
The state championship games are scheduled for later this week, starting Thursday.
The H.W. Byers and New Site girls are in the 1A and 2A title games while the Biggersville, Baldwyn and Booneville boys will play for the gold ball in 1A, 2A and 3A.
1 p.m. – 4A Girls, Pontotoc vs. Raymond
2:30 p.m. – 4A Boys, Amanda Elzy vs. Raymond
6:30 p.m. – 4A Girls, Bay High vs. North Pontotoc
8 p.m. – 4A Boys, Laurel vs. Corinth