FULTON • The South Pontotoc Lady Cougars used their stingy defense to clinch a spot in the division championship game.
South Pontotoc beat Itawamba AHS, 36-34, in the semifinals of the Division 2-4A tournament held at Itawamba Community College on Thursday afternoon.
The Lady Cougars will face the winner of Thursday night’s game between Pontotoc and Shannon tonight at 7. Itawamba AHS will play the loser in the consolation game at 4 p.m.
“I thought we showed a lot of heart and fight down the stretch. … All that matters this time of the year is win and advance,” South Pontotoc coach Bill Russell said. “We were able to secure our 20th win and a home playoff game. That’s big for this team.”
Turnovers haunted both teams early in the game. South Pontotoc (20-9) turned the ball over seven times while Itawamba AHS (11-17) turned it over six times in the first quarter alone, and the Lady Cougars led 14-6.
South Pontotoc turned that into a 20-10 lead at halftime.
The Lady Indians started the third quarter on a 9-3 run to cut the lead to only four points, but South Pontotoc junior Brianna Jamison scored five-straight points.
After she caught the ball in the corner, the IAHS defenders left her there, and she pulled up and made a 3-point attempt. A minute later, she had a steal and layup to put South Pontotoc back up 28-19.
“I knew if I didn’t shoot that ball, coach Russell was going to yell at me,” Jamison said.
The Lady Indians stormed back in the fourth quarter to tie the game, 32-32, with 3:48 left, but South Pontotoc made a layup and two free throws in the last three minutes to secure the win.
Itawamba AHS turned the ball over six times in the final quarter.
Turning Point: With the game tied, South Pontotoc held Itawamba scoreless over the last 1:54 of the game and made two free throws in the last minute to win it.
Point Maker: Jamison led South Pontotoc with nine points.
Talking Point: “Playing a zone defense gives me a lot of problems too. I can’t stand it, but I thought that was the best thing to do for us. They struggled against it some, then they made some good adjustments and went to man defense at the end.” – Russell, on forcing 18 turnovers