By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Careful Class Class 2A rivals, the New Site Lady Royals might be snapping back to reality.
In the midst of a six-game stretch of games that head coach Byron Sparks intended to wake up his squad, the defending 2A state champions looked the part Friday with a 65-57 victory over Pontotoc as part of the Booneville Kiwians Classic.
“I think we defended real well in the second half,” Sparks said. “When we got stops, we got rebounds.
“That, coupled with not turning the ball over against their press.”
The Lady Royals (12-4) got out of the gate fast, racing to a 20-11 lead through the first quarter. Then the game settled into a good Northeast Mississippi showdown between defending champions.
A pair of 3-pointers by Anna Rosenbaum and a three-point play by Olivia Owen got Pontotoc (11-3) going. Then a Kayla Russell 3-pointer lifted the Lady Warriors to a 28-27 lead.
From that point, there were eight lead changes.
Pontotoc grabbed its largest lead at 48-44 on the first basket of the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by Marlee Hatcher. New Site responded in championship form, taking a 51-50 lead following an Addison Lucas basket on an in bounds play.
A Lanikki McMillian 3-pointer pulled the contest even for Pontotoc at 53-53 with four minutes, 7 seconds to play, but New Site had the answers down the stretch.
final lead change
Two Grace Elliot free throws pushed New Site to a 55-53 margin, a lead the Lady Royals never relinquished. A Russell 3-pointer with 1:59 left pulled Pontotoc within 59-57, but in the closing two minutes, New Site scored six unanswered points to ice the victory.
“We had too many breakdowns defensively,” Pontotoc head coach Bill Russell said. “We got beat by a team that had more fight than us.”
Christin Pharr led New Site with 17 points, while McMillian paced Pontotoc with 15.
Both state champions have little time to recover from their matchup, each facing 6A schools in the Booneville tournament today. Pontotoc faces Olive Branch at 4 p.m., while New Site gets Center Hill at 7 p.m.