Perhaps as tune-ups, perhaps as a reality-checks, perhaps just as regular season games, the Warrior men and women took decisive wins over game opponents from DeSoto County on Dec. 21, sharpening their tomahawks before opening presents and diving into the meat of division play.
The Women of the Tribe thumped the ladies from Hernando, 68-19.
Mollie Sansing posted a team-high 13 points, one of four Lady Warriors in double digits, as Pontotoc dominated their visitors.
A jumper from Sadie Stegall, a steal and layup from Samya Brooks, and a jumper from Sansing propelled the Lady Warriors to a 12-5 lead early in the first quarter.
Allie Beckley got in on the action early in the second, gathering an offensive rebound and putting it back for a score. Beckley scooped up a loose ball and took it coast-to-coast for a layup and a 23-11 lead.
Beckley flittered around the Hernando defense like a honey bee, changing direction, stopping on a dime, pulling up for jumpers and snapping sharp passes. She drove baseline and completely encircled the defense, finishing with a no-look pass to Ella HIll for a score.
Pontotoc led 27-11 at the half.
Hernando's Abbey Harrison notched a pair of free-throws to open the second half. The Lady Warriors flexed their defensive muscles and applied a full-court press. That led to senior forward Riley Stanford getting a turnover basket.
Sansing grabbed a steal and got it ahead to Alayna Ball for a score. Dandy Dozen selection Samya Brooks put back an offensive rebound for 2 of her 11 points. Brooks scored, drew a foul, and made good on the plus-one to give the Lady Warriors a comanding 40-15 lead.
Sansing got a great look inside to Brooks for a score. Stegall grabbed a steal and layup. Riley Stanford cut across the defense and snapped a clever pass inside to Stegall for a 49-15 lead.
Coach Kyle Heard subbed-out in the fourth quarter.
Mackenzie McGuirt scored on a breakaway early in the final frame. Sarahia Hurd knocked down a bucket. Kori Grace Ware got a score, and freshman guard Channing Lane nailed a 3-pointer to seal the win.
Allie Beckley finished with 12 points, Stegall with 11, and Brooks with 11.
Heard was encouraged after the dominant win.
"I feel like our team chemistry is really improving and a lot of players are getting confident in their roles," said Heard, who last season coached the Lady Warriors to a 4A state championship. "I'm excited about the direction in which we're headead."
The Lady Warriors are 12-3 on the season. As of this article, they were set to play against Saltillo in the Seminole Shootout on Dec. 30.
The house got crunk when Bobby Tackett came off the bench and nailed a 3-pointer as time expired in Pontotoc's 62-36 win over Hernando.
Tackett was poised to run out the clock but decided, on a holiday whim, to shoot. Arms up, ref.
The contest was completlely decided, and it was a non-division game, so Tackett wasn't rubbing salt in the wounds--just having fun. Hernando's players had to smile.
Early in the game, Pontotoc's Jordan Ball kicked inside to Dawson Rice for a score. A jumper from Tyler Shepherd and a 3-pointer from Zane Tipler gave the Warriors an 8-0 lead.
Rhett Robinson took a valiant charge on the defensive end, giving the Warriors the ball. Jonathan Armstrong sliced inside, along the baseline, notching a score to give Pontotoc a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
An early 3-pointer from Jonathan Armstrrong propelled the Warriors early in the third period. Tyler Shpehard dished to Dawson Rice for a score.
Coach Rolley Tipler was excited about the win and said he liked where his men were progressing. A crystal-clean, fierce blocked shot from Jaylen Edwards sent the Warriors into the halftime break 28-16.
Rice took a hard charge in the third. Edwards knocked down a 3-pointer.
Zane Tipler made a beautiful no-look pass inside to Dawson Rice for a score in the final frame, cementing the win.
Afterwards, Pontotoc Coach Rolley Tipler commented on the win over Hernando and looked forward to the season ahead.
"We pass and shoot the ball well, and that's the reason we've been in a lot of games," said Tipler. "We're shooting close to eighty-percent from the free-throw line, and around fifty-percent from the field, and a lot of NBA teams wish they could shoot that. That's keeping us in games. We've lost some heart-breakers, and that might be because we have a new, young group of five, but they play hard and we're confident in their ability."
"We're learning how to finish games and shoot the ball in order to be successful."
Tipler tipped his cap to division opponents, most notably South Pontotoc.
"Coach Vandiver has them ready, and with Pacey (Mathews) doing what he does, they're a tough division opponent," said Tipler.
South Pontotoc's Pacey Mathews is averaging 16 points per game, and Joe Haze Austin is averaging the same. They both steal like pickpockets from a Dickens novel.
The Cougars were is 14-3 headed into Christmas break.
South Pontotoc traveled to Gatlinburg, Tenn., over the Christmas break. The Lady Cougars won 71-25 over Gallatin. The Tom Cats won 46-54 over Calhoun City.