His Pontotoc Lady Warriors fought through a dreadful shooting effort for a 52-38 victory over Noxubee County in Thursday afternoon’s opener of the North 4A tournament in a packed Warrior Gym.
“Bottom line, we shot the ball awfully,” said Russell. “Wherever we go from here, we’ve got to play much, much better.”
Quinn Ford scored 29 points to lead Pontotoc, which advances to a 6 p.m. semifinal today against Indianola Gentry, which beat North Pontotoc 56-47 in Thursday’s second game.
A victory tonight assures the Lady Warriors of a trip to the MHSAA Championships in Jackson. A loss ends their season.
“We never let them get closer than 10 in the second half and we make some plays when we needed them,” Russell said. “Overall, though, this may have been our worst offensive effort of the season.”
The Lady Warriors demonstrated plenty of quickness on the defensive end, though, coming up with at least a dozen steals and perhaps that many more deflected passes.
“This is a group that has played together for a long time,” Russell said. “There wasn’t any panic out there, but there were times when I wished we’d had a little greater sense of panic.”
Pontotoc led 29-11 at halftime and never seemed to be in any danger, but could never quite put the visiting Tigers on ice, either.
The home rims seemed unkind to the Lady Warriors, who unofficially shot 20 of 55 from the field, including a chilly 3 for 21 from behind the 3-point arc.
Ford was close to getting out of control at times, but finished with 16 of her team’s 23 second-half points.
Freshman Marlee Hatcher added 10 points in the victory.
For Noxubee County (19-12), senior forward Ty-Neisa Mickens played like she didn’t want her high school career to end. She scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half.
The visitors shot 16 of 47 from the field.