By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

Itawamba AHS senior Ally McDonald makes playing two sports seem as easy as one, two, three ... fore!

McDonald, who reached the semifinals of the United States Girls Junior Amateur golf championship last summer, has returned to the basketball court to play her final high school season.

It’s a move, McDonald doesn’t regret.

“I’ve got golf the rest of my life,” said the Mississippi State signee, who didn’t play hoops last season. “This was my last chance to play basketball competitively. After high school, it will be pickup games for fun.”

McDonald, a two-year starter at point guard for the Lady Indians, sat out last season to concentrate on her golf game.

The move paid off with her success in the U.S. Junior Am, IAHS winning a third state title in four seasons and the MSU scholarship offer.

IAHS coach Amanda Morrow is glad McDonald wanted to play basketball one last time.

“She has two years experience handling the ball,” the coach noted. “She sees the floor really well and she hits big shots.

“Having Ally has helped us.”

IAHS, a team that won less than 10 games in Morrow’s first season, is 13-1 overall this year with McDonald lacing up the Nikes. She has averaged 8.1 points, 2.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

In a 53-43 win against New Site earlier this week, she sank a 3-pointer to kickstart a game-clinching, fourth-quarter run.

McDonald has posted some solid numbers for a player who sat out an entire season and waited until the last moment to join the team this year.

“I made the decision to play right before school started,” she said. “That’s when they were starting their conditioning work. I really didn’t do much in the summer.

“It was pretty rough. I went from walking in the heat to running in the heat.”

Jamie McDonald supported his daughter’s decision to not play basketball. He also supported her decision to play again this season.

“She wanted to play,” he said. “She enjoys it. This was her last shot to play basketball. Golf will be her future.”

IAHS golf coach Michael Nanney believes McDonald’s success in the two sports comes from her keen hand-eye coordination.

“It’s something great athletes have, something you can’t coach,” he said. “It helps her in basketball and golf.”

Hoops to links

McDonald believes playing basketball – with all those trips up and down the court – will help her golf game this spring when the Indians bid for a fourth state championship in her prep career.

“The main thing for me last season was finishing,” she said. “I didn’t have much left in me at the end of a round.”

One sacrifice McDonald had to make in order to play basketball this season was missing out on some top-flight junior golf tournaments. Her success in the Junior Am brought her a lot of winter tournament invitations.

“It’s a sacrifice, a decision I’ve had to make,” she said of skipping the tournaments in order to play basketball. “You know, it’s kind of half and half. You miss it (golf), but you’ve got what you’ve worked for (college scholarship).”

McDonald’s golf goals this season are to win a team state title and bring home a state medalist trophy for the best individual score ... against a field of guys.

Taylor Boggs, her IAHS teammate, finished second behind another Indians golfer, Chad Ramey, for medalist honors last season. McDonald was fourth in the standings, eight shots behind the winner Ramey, now an MSU freshman, and three shots behind Boggs.

Winning medalist “is going to be tough,” she said. “Taylor’s going to give me a run for my money.”

Nanney believes nothing can hold back McDonald when it comes to golf.

“I can’t sit here and say she has a disadvantage playing against the boys,” he said. “She’s been playing from the boys tees since the ninth grade. I’ve never seen her in a high school foursome where she was noticeably behind off the tee.

“Look, this summer against the top-ranked girls players in the world, she showed she belonged.”

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