By Brandon Speck
Young Pontotoc may be growing up faster than expected. At least, that’s how it looks this week.
The Warriors are 13-8, with some not-so-impressive losses.
But a team that would seem a year or two away has some impressive wins, too, including one over No. 10 Tupelo before Christmas.
The unranked Warriors – probably not unranked for long – have had quite a week, with wins against No. 4 Biggersville and No. 2 Corinth. They’ve won 5 of their last 6.
Division 1-4A opponent Corinth is considered a favorite and beat Pontotoc by 39 points in December.
“We’ve had some problems,” second-year coach Chris Vandiver said. “But we’ve had some young guys starting to play well and we’re doing a little better job of defining roles.”
A 6-foot-5 freshman and a 6-foot-5 sophomore have played key roles.
Freshman Ty Jones is averaging 9.2 points and 6 rebounds per game. Sophomore Jacques Townsend is averaging 7 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“They have a better understanding of what they need to do,” Vandiver said.
Senior forward Anthony Townsend has toted the scoring load all season, now at 12.6 per game. It was around 17, but with the emergence of a more balanced lineup, his numbers dipped.
“It’s probably a more efficient 12,” Vandiver said. “He gives us energy, he’s a scrappy player who can do things other people can’t who aren’t quite as athletic as him.”
Juniors Kaleb Barnes and Delvin Zinn are averaging 11.1 and 10.5 points.
The problems that plagued the Warriors in a stretch of six losses in seven games from Dec. 13 through Jan. 4, a long layoff included, are looking like past issues.
Pontotoc led Corinth by 23 on Tuesday and never trailed in an 87-79 win. A win like that puts a team in the spotlight. Whether it stays or not may depend on the road, where the Warriors are 6-8 – they’re 7-0 at home.
The middle of the losing stretch was a brutal road, games at ranked North Pontotoc, Baldwyn, Corinth and at Oxford.
Pontotoc has five straight division games, including a chance to avenge an 18-point loss at Shannon.
“We still lack a toughness. We play so much better at home,” Vandiver said. “If you can’t duplicate it on the road, that tells me it’s something mental.”