By Brandon Speck
FULTON – One loss won’t define a career, but it sure did define Pontotoc’s night. Aiming for a fourth straight trip to the state tournament, the Lady Warriors were off target in a four-point third quarter that ended the run in a 52-50 loss against Gentry in the North 4A Tournament quarterfinals.
Gentry (15-11) got 21 points from Tiara Potts, the last two from the free throw line with 32 seconds left for a 52-50 lead.
Alex Brown’s 3-pointer was off with a second left on the clock.
“It’s pretty tough. We’re all a family,” Pontotoc senior Kayla Rush said, choking back tears. “We had our hearts set on state.”
There was no choking back the tears as Rush and senior teammates Kayla Russell and Olivia Owen watched from the court as time expired.
It took the Lady Warriors nearly 4 minutes to score in the third, as Gentry went on a 10-0 run to take a 33-28 lead.
“We just didn’t execute. I think they took away everything we wanted to do,” Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said. “You can’t play bad this time of year. Bottom line was we got whipped.”
Pontotoc (26-5) trailed by eight at the end of a third quarter that had junior scorer Marlee Hatcher sitting with an ankle issue and foul trouble. Hatcher’s free throw cut it to two and Alex Brown’s assist to Hatcher tied it at 50 with 50 seconds to play.
Hatcher had 21 points, 15 in the first half. Owen scored 15.
“That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re supposed to be the team,” Brown said.
Cleveland 45, Ripley 39: Ripley (23-6) had been to four straight state tournaments, but got off to a slow start and never found the gas pedal, until Madison Moore’s late 3. Down nine at the half, the lead went to 15 with 5:30 left in the game.
“We never could get anything going offensively,” first-year Ripley coach Cliff Ormon said. “They took away our post presence. We kept waiting for our shooters to get going.”
Post player Jada Rich was held to five points. Matavia Cox scored 21.