ECRU – Olive Branch coach Blake Jones, a Booneville native, knows a little about Northeast Mississippi basketball.
That’s why he wanted his up-and-coming Class 6A Lady Quistors to play Pontotoc’s Lady Warriors, a 4A powerhouse, in Saturday’s North Pontotoc Lady Vikings Shootout.
Jones’ young team, which has three freshmen and an eighth grader in its starting lineup, held off perimeter-bombing Pontotoc to take a 55-46 victory.
“Pontotoc’s a good team and Coach (Bill) Russell is a friend,” Jones said. “I know how big basketball is in this part of the state.
“This was good test for my team.”
Olive Branch (21-2) exited the week unranked in the state, but a recent 55-51 win against No. 1 Horn Lake should change that. Pontotoc (17-4) is No. 3 in the Daily Journal’s Northeast Mississippi rankings.
Freshman forward Myah LeFlore scored 16 points and freshman post Quienteal Battle added 13. Pontotoc held OB’s leading scorer, point guard Myah Taylor to six points.
“They hurt us with their size inside,” Russell said.
The Lady Warriors – who connected on 13-of-43 3-pointers – were led by Kayla Russell with 21 points and seven 3-pointers. Marlee Hatcher added 14 points and had four 3-pointers.
“We knew Russell and Hatcher were their go-to players,” Jones said. “We wanted to test them. They passed the test.”
Olive Branch raced to a 16-3 lead late in the first quarter with the help of seven Pontotoc turnovers. Battle and LeFlore scored 12 of those points off fastbreak layups.
Pontotoc, which trailed 16-9 after one, used the 3-pointer to get back in the game. The Lady Warriors were 3-of-12 in the first quarter on 3-point attempts.
Russell connected on four 3-pointers in the second quarter. Her fourth tied the score at 26-26 with 1 minute, 9 seconds remaining in the half.
Olive Branch went to a triangle-and-2 in the second half and held the Warriors to 18 points.
“We got away from what we were doing; we didn’t execute,” Bill Russell said.
(G) North Pontotoc 56, Biggersville 40: Tia Davis scored 21 and Amelia Merritt added 14 to lead the Lady Vikings.
Taylor Durham scored 21 for Biggersville.