Mantachie High School senior McKinley Montgomery accomplished quite the feat Friday night: In the fourth quarter of the team’s win over Walnut Attendance Center, Montgomery scored her 2,000th point on the hardwood for the varsity club. It’s a milestone she’s been working towards for years.
According to available records, Montgomery is the only Lady Mustang to have scored 2,000 points. She will graduate as the leading scorer in program history.
“Scoring 2,000 points is a great accomplishment. However, the only stat that matters to me is winning games and celebrating victories with my team,” she said when asked about the milestone. “To me, this is a team accomplishment. I could not have done this without great teammates, coaches, and our fans.”
Montgomery first began playing competitive ball with the organization Upward Basketball and was coached by her dad, Mark Montgomery. Upward Basketball’s goal is to develop athletes’ relationship with Christ through basketball. It may have been the younger Montgomery’s first experience playing competitively, but she had been around the game her entire life. Her father has been the coach at Shannon Middle School for three decades. Her mom, Kristi Montgomery, is the current assistant coach at Mantachie. She has also coached at Guntown and Saltillo.
Seventh grade was Montgomery’s first time playing for the Lady Mustangs. The junior high team, under the tutelage of Coach Pearce, won the county championship en route to an undefeated season. At the time, Scott Collier, the current high school boys’ coach, was the girls varsity coach. He encouraged Montgomery to move up to the high school team. Thus, Montgomery began her varsity career.
Montgomery quickly earned a starting spot and averaged 9 points per game, including a 22-point game against Blue Mountain.
A coaching change the following season saw Montgomery beginning the season on the bench. Encouraged by some to quit, Montgomery’s parents made her stick it out. She regained her starting job and averaged 15 points per game that season. 37 of her nearly 400 points scored that season came against Tishomingo County. It was a career high for the eighth grader.
Around this time, current Mantachie head coach Kevin White began coaching Montgomery in travel ball.
“I’ve had the chance to coach many great athletes over the last eight years, both in school ball and travel ball. McKinley Montgomery is one that I’ve coached in both,” White said. “I could tell immediately that she was a special player.
Montgomery scored 485 points her freshman year, her best offensively. She averaged nearly 20 points per game.
A third coaching change in four seasons forced Montgomery to learn another new offense and defensive strategy under new coach Kevin White. Despite an uptick in double-teams and extra effort by teams to contain her, she still scored 413 points, averaging 15 points per game.
“When I came to Mantachie some two years later, I had no idea what I would be able to witness with her,” White said. “I’ve been able to see major career point milestones of 1,000 in my first year, 1,500 in my second year, and now 2,000 in my third year of being head coach.”
White moved Montgomery to point guard at the beginning of her junior year. It was where her team needed her to be in order to have the most success. An injury forced her to miss a handful of complete games and cut into her playing time. Still, she led the team in assists and maintained an average of 15 points per game.
Although she’s still dealing with her injuries, Montgomery’s play remains strong. The senior leads her team in points, assists and steals while being second in rebounds and blocks. She set a new career high with 47 points against Tremont on Dec. 17.
Montgomery thanked her coaches, both current and former, for their development of her as a player and their role in her success:
“I would like to thank Coach Sonia (Pearce), Coach Collier, Coach Walters, Coach White, and Coach Montgomery, my mom, for helping me become the player I am today,” she said. “Also, big thanks to my Dad for always being my No. 1 fan. Glory be to God.”
Montgomery scored 19 points in the Lady Mustangs Division 1-2A win over Walnut, including hitting the critical go-ahead free-throw with 4.6 seconds lift. Her defense and rebound abilities are often overlooked because of her scoring, but she pulled in the rebound of the missed shot by the Lady Wildcats to preserve the win.
White said watching Montgomery develop as a player has been a great joy.
“To coach a player like McKinley who has amassed this many points in their career is special, but she goes way beyond points,” he said. “I’m proud not only of those 2,000 career points but her ability to rebound, play defense, dish out some incredible assists and most of all what she brings in leadership. I’ve been blessed to be her coach and see what she’s accomplished in her career. I’m grateful for what she’s done for this program.”
Most important to Montgomery, her team, at 11-7, has a shot at making the playoffs.