Under pressure: Lady Warriors pull away in fourth quarter

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By David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

PONTOTOC – The Pontotoc Lady Warriors still have a nice core of veteran players who have seen their share of pressure situations.

So, tie game entering the fourth quarter of a key Division 1-4A slugfest for first place with the Shannon Lady Raiders?

No problem.

With a bit of offensive execution that head coach Bill Russell had been looking for the whole game, the Lady Warriors won the final quarter, and won the contest 65-62 over the hard-playing Lady Raiders on Friday.

“Down the stretch, we got the ball where we had been trying to get it the whole game,” Russell said. “We didn’t do anything different than we were trying to do in the beginning of the game.”

Pontotoc (19-4, 7-1), ranked No. 2 in the Northeast Mississippi by the Daily Journal, edged in front early in the final quarter 53-50 behind a pair of field goals by Marlee Hatcher. Shannon (17-5, 7-2), ranked No. 4, responded later in the period with a 6-0 spurt, as baskets by Quinn Agnew and Zakiyyah McMorris pushed the visitors ahead 58-55 with 4 minutes, 2 seconds to play.

The Lady Warriors then ran off eight straight points, five of them by Olivia Owen. Alex Brown clinched the Pontotoc surge with a 3-pointer with 1:36 left for a 63-58 lead.

Shannon kept a little drama in the contest as an Alexandra Metcalf rebound and basket pulled Shannon within 63-61 with 49 seconds left. Kayla Rush then sealed the Pontotoc victory, picking up a loose ball and converting inside 20 seconds remaining.

“Shannon is physical and quick and do a good job jumping in the passing lanes,” Russell said. “I’m not pleased with our performance at all.”

Including eight points in the crucial fourth quarter, Owen led the Pontotoc offense with 19 points. Agnew and Metcalf each bagged 20 for Shannon.

The Lady Warriors have another key division test against Itawamba AHS Tuesday, and with a win, could claim the division title. Pontotoc does play Hoover (Ala.) in the Robertson Sportswear Challenge today.

Shannon led after the first quarter 18-17, Pontotoc led at the half 36-28, and the contest was square at 48-48 after three periods.

(B) Shannon 74, Pontotoc 61: The No. 7 Red Raiders survived an initial scoring surge by the No. 9 Warriors to eventually maintain a tie for first in 1-4A play.

With 3-pointers by Caleb Warren and Anthony Townsend, Pontotoc burst to a 14-1 lead.

But Shannon (18-5, 8-1) delivered its answer in the fourth quarter. With Zay Jones and Rocquis Coleman hitting 3-pointers, Shannon opened up as much as a 71-55 lead.

“We just hung in their and kept playing defense,” Shannon coach Cedric Brim said.

Jones tallied 25 to pace the Shannon attack, while Pontotoc (15-9, 5-3) saw Townsend hit 15.

Shannon battles Corinth for first place in the division Tuesday.