By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – A bashful Quinn Ford struggled to answer questions Monday afternoon in her team’s postgame press conference.
She wasn’t so shy earlier with her performance on the Mississippi Coliseum court.
The Ole Miss signee, following a sluggish start, scored 29 points, mostly on twisting, driving layups and runners to earn Pontotoc a berth in the state championship game with a 58-41 victory over Bay High in the semifinals of the MHSAA Class 4A State Tournament.
“This was my first time to be down here,” said Ford, who transferred from Okolona. “This feels great, really great.”
Ford scored 15 points in the second quarter to help the Lady Warriors turn a 14-7 first-quarter deficit into a 26-20 halftime lead.
Pontotoc coach Bill Russell attributed Ford’s slow start to her being “bad nervous” before the tipoff.
“She hadn’t been on this stage before and our other girls had,” he said. “I thought her nerves took over early. Once the game got going, she did settle down.”
Bay High coach Debbie Triplett was amazed by Ford’s performance.
“I haven’t seen a lot of girls who can shoot off the dribble like she does,” Triplett said, then smiled. “We had a tough time guarding her.”
Pontotoc (33-0) advances to Friday’s 7 p.m. title game against unbeaten Forrest County AHS (29-0). It’s Pontotoc’s first trip to the finals since 1999.
Ford wasn’t the lone producer for Pontotoc. Nikki McMillian scored 12 of her 14 points in the third quarter to help the Lady Warriors fend off Bay.
“Nobody was guarding me,” McMillian said, then laughed, after being asked about her successful quarter. “I played in my shooting range.”
Turning up the heat
The Lady Warriors played more of a half-court game in the first quarter, which favored the Coast team. Pontotoc switched to full-court pressure in the second quarter, which allowed Ford to score off turnovers and in transition.
“We wanted to feel them out early,” Russell said. “We got into the press and got the game going in our flow.
“The press has been very good to us. Our depth is our strong suit. We just play better when the game’s going in an up-and-down style.”
Ford finished strong with a 12-point fourth quarter.
Freshman star Christa Reed scored 14 points to lead Bay High. She did with Pontotoc’s top defender, Kayla Russell, following her every move.
“She’s good,” Kayla Russell said.