By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Not since the days when Northeast Mississippi coaching icons Tom McKnight, Robert Hooker and Zane Hale prowled the sidelines has Pontotoc County experienced the success it’s having now in girls high school basketball.
Pontotoc (26-3), North Pontotoc (22-6) and South Pontotoc (20-10) all won their respective division tourament championships Friday to advance to this week’s North Mississippi tournament as No. 1 seeds.
“This goes back to the days of McKnight (Pontotoc), Hooker (South Pontotoc) and Hale (North Pontotoc),” Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said. “For all three teams to win their division tournaments says a lot for us.”
Russell’s Lady Warriors, the defending 4A state champion, defeated Itawamba AHS at ICC 57-49 in the Division 1-4A tournament and will host Noxubee County at 7 p.m. Monday in the first round.
Pontotoc is led by guards Marlee Hatcher, Anna Rosenbaum and Kayla Russell.
North Pontotoc’s 56-49 win against Lafayette for the Division 2-4A crown gave Lady Vikings coach Shane Montgomery his first division championship in eight seasons.
“I can’t tell you the last time North Pontotoc won the division,” he said. “Pontotoc is still the top dog in this county. Coach Russell and (South Pontotoc) Coach (Matt) Waldrop do great jobs. Both of those teams are well-coached.”
North Pontotoc, a senior-dominated team that has won 11 of its last 12 games, hosts Cleveland in Monday’s first round.
lady vikings’ attack
The Lady Vikings have a solid one-two scoring punch with guard Andrea Lewis (16.4 ppg) and 6-foot-3 post Chelsey Mabry (15.3 ppg).
South Pontotoc, which has the youngest team of the three, defeated Mooreville 42-37 to win the Division 2-3A championship.
“We’ve peaked at the right time and we’ve continued to get better,” Waldrop said. “This is a gritty group, one that’s been fun to coach.”
The Lady Cougars host Byhalia in Monday’s first-round game. They are led by their lone senior, guard CC Costillo, who averages a team-best 17 points per game.
“She’s also a tough player defensively,” Waldrop said of the ICC signee. “We’ve had a freshman point guard, Maddison Crudup, who has played well.”