Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – Bill Russell had two primary assignments for his Pontotoc team against Byhalia: take control of the scoreboard as soon as possible; keep Shandricka Sessom in check.
The Lady Warriors completed both tasks with ease.
Pontotoc bolted to an early lead and shut down the Lady Indians’ star player to earn a 63-36 win in Monday’s opening round of MHSAA 4A North Tournament.
Pontotoc (26-4) will face Indianola Gentry on Thursday at Itawamba AHS.
Marlee Hatcher scored 20 of her game-high 24 points in the first half for the Lady Warriors, the Division 1-4A champs.
“We wanted to jump out on them and get a good lead, because usually they do that,” said Hatcher, a junior. “And we really wanted to shut down No. 23 (Sessom) on their team.”
Olivia Owen and Kayla Russell netted 11 apiece for Pontotoc. Russell was marked up on Sessom, a 5-foot-10 senior who has signed to play for Ole Miss.
Sessom was held scoreless and did not return after leaving the game midway through the second period with Byhalia, the No. 4 team from Div. 2-4A, trailing 25-5.
Pontotoc led 33-11 at halftime.
“We came out and took Sessom out of the game,” said Bill Russell. “Kayla did an outstanding job of keeping her from getting the ball. The pace of the game wasn’t what we wanted, but our defense did a good job.”
Shay Johnson, an eighth grade point guard, led Byhalia (10-19) with 17 points.
“We played a good team that shot the ball well and was patient,” said Lady Indians coach Reginald Jones. “They should have a good chance for winning the whole thing.”