By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – Pontotoc County has two more reasons to celebrate its basketball season.
North Pontotoc overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to knock off Indianola Gentry 47-45 on Friday night to advance to tonight’s MHSAA Class 4A North finals.
It also set up an intriguing match in the finals against county rival Pontotoc, which secured a return trip to the state finals tournament with a 65-55 victory against Greenwood earlier in the evening.
“The bottom line is we’re going to Jackson,” said North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery. “(Saturday) night is the icing on the cake. We’re eating the cake right now after tonight’s win.”
Both Pontotoc (Div. 1-4A) and North Pontotoc (2-4A) won their respective division championships last week.
After trailing 35-25 at halftime, a 3-pointer by Andrea Lewis with 4 mintues, 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter helped North regain the lead (40-38) for the first time in the half and ignited the capacity crowd.
Chelsea Mabry sank a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left to keep the Lady Vikings in front 46-42. A defensive rebound by Tia Davis helped North keep possession and run the clock.
Lewis, a Blue Mountain College signee, scored a game-high 16 and Davis added 9 for North Pontotoc (24-6). Alexis Jackson and Christina Reed scored 9 apiece for the Lady Rams.
(G) Pontotoc 65, Greenwood 55: Marlee Hatcher led all scorers with 20 points, followed by Alex Brown (19) and Lanikki McMillian (15) for the defending Class 4A state champions.
Brown, a sophomore, came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers. Her two long-distance shots in the third turned back a rally by the Lady Bulldogs that had pulled them within 37-32.
Hatcher’s 3-pointer with 4:50 left in the fourth put the Lady Warriors ahead by 12 (59-47).
The sophomore hit back-to-back free throws with just over a minute left to finish the scoring and send Pontotoc (28-3) to to tonight’s finals against North Pontotoc.
“I’m expecting a packed house and an exciting game,” said Pontotoc coach Bill Russell about the showdown.
“The pressure is off both teams. Both teams are going to come out (Saturday) night and play hard and get after each other.”
Shontrel Williams scored 16 to lead Greenwood (23-8).