By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Player of the year:
Quinn Ford, Pontotoc
Quinndella Ford averaged 27 points per game her sophomore and junior seasons for Okolona. This year, playing for Pontotoc, her average dipped to 22.6 points per game.
The drop didn’t bother her one bit.
The 5-foot-8 guard wrapped up her senior season having won a Class 4A state championship and played on an undefeated, 34-0, team.
“This whole season was a great experience for me,” Ford said. “We had other good players, so it took a lot of the stress off me.”
For her efforts in helping lead the Lady Warriors to an unbeaten record and a gold ball, Ford has been named the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year in girls high school basketball.
The task for Pontotoc coach Bill Russell was to work the talented Ford into the fabric of his 10-player-deep lineup. He changes starting lineups depending on the opponent and substitutes his players five for five.
“Quinn had to learn a whole new system – offense and defense,” he said. “It took her some time. She learned that she had teammates who could finish when she assisted. She was used to freelancing.”
Pontotoc sophomore guard Kayla Russell, who was an AAU teammate of Ford’s last summer, says the former Okolona star was welcomed from the start.
“She was accepted really quick,” Kayla said. “We all knew how she played. She helped us a lot this season. We had a good team, but it would have been a lot harder without her.”
Bill Russell credited the attitude of his players in accepting Ford as crucial in their quest to win a state championship.
“This is a good group of kids,” he said. “They accepted her. We didn’t have any drama, which made this group a pleasure to coach.”
Ford didn’t disappoint her coach, teammates or new fans on the court. In the Lady Warriors 72-68 victory in the Class 4A state title game against Forrest County AHS, she scored 11 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter to fuel a comeback.
“She’s a threat to score when touches the ball from anywhere on the court,” Bill Russell said. “It’s amazing what she can do with the ball.”