By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – From 8-18 to one win shy of playing in the state tournament semifinals. That’s quite a turnaround for the Pontotoc girls team.
Unfortunately for the Lady Warriors, they will remain that single win shy of making the 2010 MHSAA Class 4A State Tournament.
Division rival New Albany spoiled their plans by winning 49-35 in Saturday night’s MHSAA Class 4A North Tournament semifinal at the New Albany Middle School gym.
Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said his players were heartbroken, and that his 23-6 team may have been one of the strongest teams to not advance to the state tournament in Jackson under its new final-four format. In previous seasons, the state tourney field would consist of six teams.
“I thought we had a good enough team to make it down there,” Russell said outside his team’s locker room, “but what they’re doing this year just kept us from going.”
And so did New Albany. The Lady Bulldogs, the Daily Journal’s top-ranked large school and The Clarion-Ledger’s No. 1-ranked team in the state, led 28-17 at halftime and didn’t have to depend too much on scoring in the second half.
While New Albany only scored four points in the third quarter, Pontotoc managed only eight. With New Albany leading 32-25, the teams went the final 3 minutes, 35 seconds of the quarter without scoring.
“We couldn’t make a shot,” said New Albany coach John Stroud. “We got tighter and tighter as the game went on.
“It was a grind-out win.”
Jazmine Spears scored a team-high 14 points, while Kebrina Lucas added 10 for the Lady Bulldogs (30-0).
New Albany went 14 of 20 from the free-throw line, but “couldn’t hit an outside shot,” said Stroud. The Lady Bulldogs only made two 3s on the night, with each coming in the second quarter.
“We wanted to keep it low enough so that we could stay with them,” Russell said of limiting New Albany’s point total.
Ebony Brinker, the lone Pontotoc player to score in double figures, had a game-high 15 points for Pontotoc.
Unfortunately for Pontotoc, she got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out with 3:59 remaining in the game.
“We were in early foul trouble and we were trying to sub for offense and defense,” Russell said about constantly having to have his players substitute in and out of the game.
“I would have liked to have my top scorer (Brinker) on the floor as much as I could, but foul trouble kept us from doing it.”
Lafayette 69, Humphreys County 62 (OT)
– In a matchup of two teams with lengthy win streaks, it was Lafayette emerging from a 33-25 halftime deficit to an overtime semifinal victory.
The win extends Lafayette’s win streak to 18 games; the loss snapped Humphreys County’s 14-game win streak.
The Lady Commodores outscored Humphreys County 43-29 from the start of the third quarter through the end of the overtime period.
Phylisha Fonden scored 22 to lead Lafayette (29-1), which advanced to Monday night’s Class 4A North championship game against New Albany.
Humphreys ended its season at 27-5.