BY DAVID WHEELER
PONTOTOC - Itawamba AHS Indians coach Brady Ramey is very pleased his squad is beginning to come together prior to entering their region schedule.
As the buzzer went off Tuesday in the Indians game with the Pontotoc Warriors, Ramey could also manage a smile after the contest's final shot bounced harmlessly off the rim.
In a good matchup of Class 4A teams, the Indians survived a Warriors' comeback to earn a 58-57 victory.
"I thought our defense really clamped down on Pontotoc, especially our pressure defense in the fourth quarter," Ramey said. "We had played five or six bad games, but starting the last three, we're coming together as a team, which is great going into region play."
The night was truly a treat for IAHS as the Lady Indians made the trip a sweep with a 74-52 win against the Lady Warriors. But it was almost not so great for the Indians, who led 58-52 with 25 seconds left.
Never giving up, the Warriors saw Charlie Busby bank in a shot with 11 seconds left to cut the margin to 58-54. Following a missed IAHS free throw, Greg Smith drained a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to cut the margin to 58-57.
Alertly, a Pontotoc player swatted at the ball while Itawamba (12-6) was holding it, prompting only a warning for delay, and stopping the clock with 2 seconds left. Pontotoc then intercepted a half court pass, but missed the final shot.
"We never had an answer for Jessie Eskers, he was the difference in the ball game," said Pontotoc coach Jon Ginn, who saw the Itawamba post player scored 28 points, the only Indian in double figures. "Take away his inside play, and we're not in the position we're in at the end of the game."
Itawamba never trailed in the contest, but its biggest lead was 38-30 in the third quarter, and the contest was tied three times in the fourth period.
Pontotoc (13-5) pulled even for the final time at 52-52 with 2 minutes, 26 seconds left on a Von Shea Hall basket. But a half-court drive and layup by Eskers and two free throws by Kenny McKinney helped the Indians to its 58-52 lead late.
Smith tossed in 14 to lead Pontotoc.
In the girls contest, the Lady Indians (16-2) pulled away in the third quarter, leading 53-34 at the end of the period. Keisha Shumpert and Bronson Rodgers each tallied 15 points to lead Itawamba while Jordan McCormick hit 15 for the Lady Warriors.