By Gene Phelps
Special to the Gazette
NEW ALBANY – New Albany forward Michael Smith scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the second half Tuesday to lead the Bulldogs to a 77-66 win against Pontotoc.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore dominated around the goal with short jumpers and layups in the Bulldogs’ second straight win of the young 2019-20 season.
“I practice that shot a lot,” Smith said of his jumper. “I think I played one of my better games on offense and defense.”
Smith connected on 9 of 11 from the field and added six rebounds.
“He stepped up big tonight,” New Albany coach Scotty Shettles said. “I think he scored maybe two or three points against (Pontotoc) last year. I told him he needed to have a big game. He responded.”
New Albany (2-0) saw guard Mitchell Shettles record 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Point guard Isaiah Ball scored 14 and recorded six assists. Guard/forward Michael Casey scored 10 and had four rebounds while forward Artaveion High had a team-high nine rebounds and scored seven points.
Rock Robinson scored a game-high 25 points and Joe Austin added 13 for Pontotoc.
Smith’s short baseline jumper gave the Bulldogs a 31-22 lead late in the first half, but Pontotoc rallied to close the gap to 33-30 at halftime.
A 3-point play – layup and free throw – by Smith gave New Albany a 48-37 lead with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter.
Pontotoc rallied in the fourth quarter to cut New Albany’s lead to 59-55.
The Bulldogs responded with four consecutive layups by Ball (two), High and Shettles to push their lead 67-55 with 2:46 left.
“I told them it was going to be a game of runs. We’re going to get hit, we’re going to get up,” Scotty Shettles said. “I’m proud of them, but we can play better than that.”
New Albany committed 21 turnovers.
(G) Pontotoc 65, New Albany 51
Preseason all-state guard DeeDee Shephard scored 19 points, nine of those on 3-pointers, to lead the visiting Lady Warriors.
Pontotoc (2-0) gained a measure of revenge with the victory against the team that ended its season in last year’s 4A state tournament.
New Albany (1-1) was led by Kelsey Ledbetter, who connected on five 3-pointers and scored 19 points.
“Our game plan tonight to simply compete,” New Albany coach Micha Washington said. “We knew we were going to get their best.”
Pontotoc post player Samya Brooks added 15 points.