By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – Tupelo Lady Wave head coach Matt Justice was looking to find out if his team was ready for a big stage.
The Lady Wave certainly had some prime-time players Friday.
In a battle of Northeast Mississippi unbeaten girls teams, the Lady Wave used a decisive third quarter to open up a margin the Pontotoc Lady Warriors could not overcome to grab a 58-46 victory.
“I’m proud of the girls because they knew they were coming into a tough environment, and it shows they have matured and are able to get a big win on the road,” Justice said. “I thought our intensity was good, and they were focused and ready to play.
“I think Pontotoc is definitely one of those teams you’re going to see at the end in 4A.”
Like two confident teams patiently waiting for any miscue, Tupelo (10-0) and Pontotoc (10-1) basically played to a draw in the first half. Tupelo moved to as much as a 22-16 lead following an Alayjah Sherer bucket, but a 3- pointer late in the half by Kayla Russell helped pull Pontotoc within 25-23 at the half.
The first four-plus minutes of the third period was more of the same, then Tupelo made its move.
An Asia Partlow rebound and basket began an 11-0 run by the Lady Wave, capped by free throws by Marqueesha Hoskins for a 41-29 lead near the end of the third quarter.
“They out-physicalled us, they out-rebounded us, and the game got away from us when we got in foul trouble,” Pontotoc head coach Bill Russell said. “This was the first test we really had, and we’ve got to rebound better and defend better.
“I’m hoping this loss will bring us back down to earth.”
Tupelo never led by fewer than nine in the fourth quarter.
Jaleigha Polk paced the Tupelo offense with 16 points, with Hoskins adding 15. For Pontotoc, Russell and Marlee Hatcher each bagged 17.
(B) Pontotoc 62, Tupelo 56: Pontotoc (8-3) led 27-25 at the half and 40-37 at the end of the third quarter.
Delvin Zinn was tops for Pontotoc in scoring with 18, and Antonio Green hit 18 for Tupelo (5-5).
Tupelo will host a boys only contest Monday against Antioch (Tenn.), with a 6 p.m. tip.