OXFORD- After a fast start, the Pontotoc girls maintained a lead throughout the game and held off an attempted late rally from Pine Grove in a 72-51 victory last Tuesday at the Oxford Charger Challenge.
The Lady Panthers, the three-time defending Class 1A state champions, represented another significant non-division matchup for Pontotoc, which improved to 7-1 on the year.
Pine Grove held an early 6-4 edge after a 3-pointer from standout Loren Elliott, but the Lady Warriors proceeded to rip off a 15-0 run to take control. DeeDee Shephard drove for a layup. Samya Brooks crashed the offensive glass for a basket. Shephard drained a 3-pointer, and Amber McCoy knocked down a runner in the lane. Allie Beckley swiped a steal, which led to a transition layup by Shephard, and Brooks followed her own miss for another offensive rebound and bucket. Angela Middleton got to the foul line and hit two shots before Elliott hit a jump shot near the buzzer to break the scoreless drought for Pine Grove, making it 19-8.
The Lady Warriors led by 13 twice in the second quarter after baskets by Shephard and Sky Vaughn. Consecutive threes from Bella Jumper pulled the Lady Panthers to within 7, but Pontotoc had the answer. Shephard saved a loose ball, tossing it back over her head into play while going out of bounds, and she ended the possession with a 3-pointer. Shephard then scored on a fast break layup, and Angela Middleton also rolled one in after coming up with a steal for a 30-16 lead. Middleton also scored the Lady Warriors' final points of the half on a short touch shot with 21 seconds to go, as PHS led 32-21 at the break.
Pontotoc led by as many 15 in the third quarter. However, they could not completely put away the scrappy Lady Panthers. A 7-0 spurt got Pine Grove to within 38-30 after a three from Jumper, but the Lady Warriors countered with a basket from Middleton, followed by two straight from Shephard. Jumper and Elliott each knocked down two free throws in the final seconds of the third to pull Pine Grove to within 44-33 with a quarter to go.
Brooks scored inside to begin the fourth for the Lady Warriors. Elliott then hit three free throws to make it 46-36, and, after a another bucket by Brooks, Jumper buried a three to get the Lady Panthers to within 9 at 48-39. Pine Grove could not sustain the momentum, however, as the Lady Warriors reeled off a final, decisive 13-2 run to put the game out of reach. Amber McCoy found the bottom of the net, and Shephard immediately came up with a steal and layup. Jumper hit a shot, but the Pontotoc onslaught continued. McCoy scored again, Jadyn Spears jumped in front of an inbounds pass and took it the other way for a layup, and Shephard converted a 3-point play off of a drive. Angela Middleton's two free throws gave the Lady Warriors a 20-point, 61-41 lead. Pontotoc finished out the game with 9 free throws in the final minutes, with Brooks also adding another basket.
Shephard had a big game with 29 points, shooting 11 of 17 from the field. Middleton finished with 16 points and six rebounds, while Brooks recorded a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Elliott and Jumper each had 22 points for Pine Grove, accounting for all but 7 of the team's points.
The Lady Panthers missed many opportunities at the free throw line, only making 17 of 33 attempts.