A week off did not affect the Lady Bulldogs in any way, as the top ranked team in the state earned a commanding win in their division opener at Pontotoc, 74-44, Tuesday night.
Focusing primarily on not allowing opponents to hang around, the Lady Bulldogs built a 24 point lead at the end of the third quarter to put away the Lady Warriors.
“I thought the third quarter was key,” NAHS head coach John Stroud said. “When these girls are focused, we’ll win every game because we have size and shooters and ball handlers. You can tell when we don’t play; we let teams hang around.”
“Pontotoc is probably one of the top five teams in the area. They have size and six seniors, like us and shooters, but we’ll see them again, though.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ defense created a nearly five minute scoring drought for Pontotoc in the frame, and New Albany took advantage of the absence of Pontotoc’s starters, who were replaced in the quarter.
“It’s a good win for our program,” Stroud said. “The girls were focused tonight, and it’s been a week since the Ingomar game to prepare for them and see what they were going to do.”
“(Nyambi) Penson played well, (Kebrina) Lucas played well, Micha (Washington) played well, and when those girls are hitting on all cylinders, they’re tough to beat. Anytime you win by 30 on the road at Pontotoc, it’s a good win for us.”
Two triples by Penson helped New Albany build a 23-12 lead after the first frame, including a 7-0 run. Penson led with 12 first half points, followed by Jazmine Spears with 11 and New Albany went to the break up 37-27 after a three-pointer by Anna Chrestman right before the half.
Washington led New Albany (8-0) with 16 points, followed by Spears and Lucas each with 15 points, and Penson finished with 14.
Rhandi Ball led Pontotoc (8-2) with 10 points.
New Albany 70 Pontotoc 53 (boys)
The Bulldogs earned their sixth straight win, opening division play with a 70-53 win over the defending North Half champion Warriors.
A three-pointer at the buzzer by Trai Freeman cut New Albany’s first quarter lead to five, 16-11, but the Bulldogs, led by seven second quarter points by Devonte Berry, took control of the game, going ahead, 39-26 at the half.
Tadarious Coburn scored nine second half points, finishing with 18 to lead New Albany (8-1) Berry finished with 15 and Daniel Drummond scored 10 points for the Bulldogs, who have now won 13 straight against division rivals dating from last season and are currently the second ranked team in 4A, according to the Clarion Ledger’s latest poll.
“Anytime you’re 1-0 in division play, it’s a good thing, and we knew Pontotoc was going to play hard,” head coach Brad Gray said. “I’ve never seen a team coached by Coach Ginn that hasn’t gone out and played hard, so this is a good win for us.”
Despite the win streak, Gray knows there are areas to work on, including rebounding on the defensive end.
“We’re giving teams second, third and fourth chances for points, and we can’t keep doing that expecting to win,” he said. “We’ve got to start blocking out better. Our effort is good and we’re playing good defense, but when they miss a shot, we don’t block out and we give them a lay up. We’re not doing a very good job in that aspect.”
One aspect working well for the Bulldogs is the guard play by Kareem Brown and Eric Chaney, who both possess the speed and talent to run the ‘Dawgs’ offense.
“It’s a pick your poison. You can key in on one of them, and the other can potentially beat you and vice versa,” Gray said. “They’re a good tandem up there, very quick and athletic, and the best part is that they’re both so unselfish. They look to get everyone else involved and they don’t really care who scores. They’re a good team.”
New Albany will next play on Thursday, traveling to Shannon.