TUNICA – The Pontotoc Warriors started the game strong and ended it strong Tuesday night against Rosa Fort in the opening round of the 4A North Tournament. In the middle, however, there were some obstacles to overcome on the way to a 71-64 victory.
After scoring the game’s first eight points and leading 16-9 after one, the Warriors found themselves down by as many as 10 in the third before rallying.
A big part of that was due to the Lions’ Ladarious Woods and Tarquise Harris, who combined for a total of eight 3-pointers on the night, many of them heavily contested.
“They are a good team and tough to defend,” said Pontotoc coach Chris Vandiver. “Our philosophy was to stay two lengths away from them, stay in front of them and keep them out of the lane.
“In the second half we got too close some and they were able to get into the lane. At the end of the third we did a better job of keeping our distance, but they started hitting 3s.
“We played well and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, and we did.”
Harris led Rosa Fort with 19 points and Harris had17.
After Rosa Fort went up 42-32 with 4:03 left in the third, the Warriors closed the quarter on a 13-3 run. Senior point guard Cory Williams ignited the Pontotoc bench and fans when he banked in a half court shot at the third quarter buzzer to put the Warriors up 45-44, their first lead since the late second quarter.
Pontotoc (21-10) went up 56-49 with just under five minutes to play, but the Lions’ duo of Woods and Harris scored Rosa Fort’s next 13 points in less than three minutes, putting them up 62-59 with 2:22 left. However, from that point it was all Warriors.
A putback from Ty Jones closed the gap to one, and an inside bucket from Kaleb Barnes gave Pontotoc the lead for good at the 1:20 mark. Jones, who led the Warriors with 23 points, and Barnes hit 5-6 combined free throws in the final minute to seal the win.