By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
RIPLEY – Marlee Hatcher was having a game to forget on Friday night against Ripley.
Pontotoc’s sophomore guard couldn’t make a layup. She turned the ball over. She was visibly frustrated.
Following a brief time on the bench, Hatcher returned to the lineup to score nine points down the stretch in Pontotoc’s 54-52 win against Ripley.
“I couldn’t hit a layup to save my life,” said Hatcher, who led Pontotoc (11-2) with 13 points. “I was rushing things.”
“She got down on herself,” Pontotoc coach Bill Russell added.
Hatcher eventually hit both ends of a one-plus-one with 19 seconds remaining for the game-sealing points. Earlier in Pontotoc’s fourth-quarter rally, she connected on a layup and hit a pull-up jumper.
“When the game was on the line I had to suck it up and play through it,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher wasn’t the only player having an off night. It was universal. Pontotoc committed 20 turnovers, eight in the first quarter. Ripley turned the ball over 25 times.
“I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day,” Russell said, then laughed. “We didn’t play well, but Ripley had a lot to do with it.”
Pontotoc’s defense played a huge part in the win. Kayla Russell guarded Lady Tigers star Jayla Chills and held her to 14 points.
“They took Jayla (Chills) out of her game,” Ripley coach Katie Bates said. “They did a good job.”
It was Russell and teammate Alex Brown who forced a Chills turnover on an inbounds pass with 36 seconds remaining. Lanikki McMillian took a feed from Brown after the miscue and connected on a layup to give the Lady Warriors a 52-51 lead.
The Lady Tigers (6-2) still had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds, but missed on two putback attempts.
“We both knew coming in it was going to be who made the plays at the end,” Bates said.
(B) Ripley 96, Pontotoc 76: Ripley (10-1), which hosts Tupelo today in the Ripley Challenge, got 24 points from Malik Pearson.