Lady Cougars can’t hold late lead

basketball_icon_greenBy Jonathan Wise

Pontotoc Progress

PONTOTOC – Up six early in the fourth quarter, the South Pontotoc Lady Cougars looked to be in control against Ruleville Central on Monday in the first round of the 3A North Tournament.

However, the Lady Tigers came up with big shots in the final minutes to rally and leave with a 45-42 win.

Two fourth-quarter 3-pointers from Valencia DeJesus allowed Ruleville cut the South lead to 38-37 midway through the period. Maddison Crudup helped the Lady Cougars stay ahead by drawing fouls on slashing drives two straight strips down court, knocking down three of four throws. However, the Lady Tigers’ Robrieka Finn answered and knocked down two jump shots of her own to pull Ruleville even at 41-41 with 1:01 remaining.

Shakira Singleton gave the Lady Tigers their first lead since early third quarter when she drove to the hoop for two with 43.8 seconds to go. A free throw from South’s Lauren Higgins pulled the Lady Cougars to within one, 43-42, but that was all the scoring they could muster.

Ruleville’s subsequent turnover gave South the opportunity to reclaim the lead with 35.8 seconds to play, but the Lady Cougars turned the ball right back over, leading to a pair of Singleton free throws that sealed the outcome.

“We knew coming in they were going to be aggressive,” said South coach Shane Hayles, who led the Lady Cougars to a 19-12 record in his first year as coach.

“Give them credit, they shot the ball well tonight. They hit threes at key points. We’d have them kind of on the ropes and they would make a big shot to stay it and keep hanging around.

“I think most of the time it comes down to free throws and rebounding the basketball- they probably outrebounded us and we missed some key free throws down the stretch.”

The Lady Tigers (13-8) got a big offensive spark from Finn, who scored a game-high 19 points and hit shots from nearly every spot on the court. Crudup led South with 15.

Click video to hear audio