By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Raymond coach Mike Coleman couldn’t believe Pontotoc connected on just 8-of-23 3-point shots on Monday afternoon.
He thought it was more like 23-of-23.
The Lady Warriors connected on those eight 3-pointers, five in the second half, to defeat Raymond 55-42 in the MHSAA Class 4A state tournament semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“They hit some big shots,” Coleman said. “They didn’t look as quick on film, but they move the ball really well.”
Pontotoc (31-3), the defending state champion, advanced to Friday’s 7 p.m. title game against Bay High, the state’s top-ranked team.
Bay defeated North Pontotoc 74-31 on Monday night.
Kayla Russell hit four of the 3-pointers while Olivia Owen, Marlee Hatcher, Anna Rosenbaum and LaNikki McMillian each hit one to lead the Lady Warriors.
McMillian was more of a force inside, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds. She scored 13 points in the first half to help Pontotoc build a 29-19 halftime lead.
“She’s a D-I player, a force inside,” Coleman said. “On film, she shot 3s, but in the game she was definitely a presence in the paint.”
The Lady Warriors looked inside when Raymond (28-2) opened with a man-to-man defense.
“We knew we had an advantage in the post if we could get the ball in to Nikki,” Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said. “I felt like she could score.
“The game plan was to attack their zone, but they packed their zone back when Nikki scoring. It opened up shots for us on the perimeter.”
Hatcher, who scored 10 points, admitted her shots weren’t falling – she was 2-of-9. “I saw Nikki open and I passed it to here,” she said.
Pontotoc hit four 3-pointers in a row late in third quarter and early in the fourth to take a 48-37 lead. Owen scored on a layup and hit a runner in the lane at the 2-minute, 42-second mark to build the Lady Warriors’ lead to 52-40.
Arnissayur Robinson led Raymond, which shot 28 percent, with 15 points.