BIGGERSVILLE • When Manoj Nickson caught fire, Booneville had no answer for the Pontotoc sharpshooter.
Nickson scored 19 points, 15 in the second half, as Pontotoc beat Booneville 66-59 on Saturday afternoon in the BIGG Classic held at Biggersville High School.
All 15 of Nickson’s second-half points came from 3-pointers, including two back-to-back that broke a 54-54 tie midway through the fourth.
“Once we settled down, Manoj stepped up and hit a lot of big shots for us right at the end,” Pontotoc coach Rolley Tipler said. “I’m just glad we are finally growing. A lot of these close games early in the season, we struggled at closing them out. Today was another day that we closed out a good game.”
Pontotoc (7-5) took a double-digit lead early with five points each from Rock Robinson and Joe Haze Austin, but Booneville’s Caleb Gaston hit a 3-pointer late to make the score 21-12.
Haze pushed the lead back to 12 with his second 3-pointer, then Booneville’s Bryton Smith got the hot hand and scored nine points during an 11-0 run by Booneville (4-3) to cut the lead to one point. Nickson separated the two teams with two free throws, and Pontotoc led 33-28 at the break.
Up 36-34 in the third quarter, Nickson found the hot hand and hit three 3-pointers within 64 seconds to put Pontotoc up by nine points and Pontotoc took a 52-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
After a 3-pointer by Kaleb Guy, Booneville’s Trey McKinney tied the game, 54-54, with two free throws and a layup. Following that, Nickson hit two 3-pointers and Pontotoc was able to pass the ball around effectively and secured the win with two late free throws by Austin.
“Like my coach said, every time I come off the bench I become a sharpshooter,” Nickson said. “I become a sniper out there and I just start feeling it. I was telling my team to find me in the corner and just get it to me.”
Turning Point: Nickson’s back-to-back 3-pointers put Pontotoc up 60-54 with 3:25 left in the game.
Point Man: Austin finished with 14 points, 4 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks.
Talking Point: “I think we dug a hole early and got behind and it takes a lot of energy and effort to get back in it. It seemed like every time we caught them or made it close, they hit big 3-pointers or big shots.” – Booneville coach Michael Smith.