Top seed and defending champion Allen and third seed Tupelo both advanced to the semifinals with first-round victories on Monday’s opening program of the Pontotoc Conference Tournament. But while the host Lady Mustangs simply buried No. 8 seed Calvin under a tidal wave of shots, rebounds and takeaways, the Lady Tigers had to grind away to beat sixth-seeded Asher.
Allen (4-0) took an incredible 94 shots and grabbed an equally eye-popping 59 rebounds en route to dismantling Calvin, 79-28, in the tournament opener, then Tupelo rallied from a 23-21 halftime deficit and gradually wore down the upstart Lady Indians, 51-40, in the second semifinal behind 25 points from senior Shanna Davidson. With the victories, Allen and Tupelo moved on semifinal showdowns Thursday with opponents to be determined tonight — the Lady Mustangs against the winner of a 7:40 p.m. contest between No. 4 Vanoss and No. 5 Roff, and the Lady Tigers against the survivor of a 5 p.m. game between No. 2 seed Stonewall and No. 7 Wanette.
Asher and Calvin both dropped into the loser’s bracket, where they will play the losers of the two girls contests tonight in elimination games Wednesday — Asher versus either Wanette or Stonewall at 5 p.m. and Calvin against Roff or Vanoss at 7:40.
Tupelo 51, Asher 40
Davidson scored seven points in the first quarter to help Tupelo (7-2) to a 10-7 lead heading to the second, then she hit six of her 10 shots after intermission — including all three in the fourth quarter — and scored 14 points to lead the Lady Tigers back from their halftime deficit.
Landra Nelson’s putback of an offensive rebound with 7:07 left in the third quarter tied the score at 23-all, but the Lady Tigers didn’t take the lead for good until Davidson drained a mid-range jumper to make it 32-30 at the 2:18 mark. Another offensive rebound — this one by Kelsie Warner — 20 seconds earlier had put Tupelo up 30-29 before Jamee McDonald hit the second of two free throws to tie the game for the last time.
Asher (1-7) didn’t score for almost six minutes after McDonald’s charity shot, and by the time center Erin Casey hit a pair of free throws with 4:37 to play to end the drought, Tupelo had built a 43-30 lead.
Davidson — who had six rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots to go with her 25 points — followed her go-ahead basket with a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound and assist from Warner with 1:27 left in the third, then Nelson was fouled after grabbing another offensive rebound and hit a pair of free throws to send the Lady Tigers to the fourth quarter with a 37-30 lead.
Nelson’s jumper off a Davidson assist put Tupelo up 39-30 with 6:30 to play, then Nelson fed Davidson for a long jumper of her own just over a minute later to give Tupelo its first double-digit lead of the night at 41-30. Another offensive rebound led to a Chesna Henry jumper off an assist from Nelson on an inbounds play to cap the pivotal run.
Nelson finished 5-for-10 from the field and scored nine of her 14 points in the second half. She added five rebounds and five assists. Warner had seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Henry scored four points and added five rebounds, two assists and a steal off the bench for the Lady Tigers, who were 20-for-54 from the field. Tupelo outrebounded Asher just 33-29, but 16 of the Lady Tigers’ rebounds were on the offensive end and led to 15 points.
McDonald, who, along with Tristan Milburn, hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter to help the Lady Indians to their halftime lead, finished with 13 points, and Casey — Asher’s leading scorer and rebounder this season — scored eight points and added four rebounds despite spending most of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
Kasadi Reimers also had a solid all-around game — six points, three steals, two assists, a blocked shot and a game-high seven rebounds — in the loss.
Allen 79, Calvin 28
While Davidson and Nelson carried most of the load for Tupelo, the Lady Mustangs got scoring from 12 different players. Allen scored the game’s first 10 points — six of them from Brandi Horton — and led 22-4 following a point-blank jumper from Chelsea Coody with less than two minutes left in the opening period.
Super-sub Amber Coody, who scored 11 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds despite joining the Allen starters on the bench in the second half, sent the Lady Mustangs to the second quarter with a 26-7 lead when she hit a baby hook with 10 seconds left in the first to cap a three-shot possession. The lead swelled to 49-15 at intermission, and by that time, Amber Coody and three of Allen’s five starters — Horton, Jordyn Mills, and Carley Collard — had combined to hit 18-of-37 shots.
Of that group, only Horton (who was 0-for-2) took a shot in the second half, and she finished with a team-high 15 points to join Amber Coody in double figures. Mills added nine points, Collard had eight, and Chelsea Coody scored nine points — seven in the third quarter — off the bench. Marissa Prentice also had a solid game in a reserve role, scoring seven points and adding six rebounds, five assists and two steals, and sophomore Erin Warren scored eight second-half points and added four of the Lady Mustangs’ 21 steals in a mop-up role.
Allen’s defense, which carried the Lady Mustangs to the tournament title last year, forced 27 turnovers (20 in the first half) and held the Lady Bulldogs to seven field goals in 39 attempts. Courtney Nolen was 3-for-13 for Calvin, but she hit 11 of 14 free throws to finish with a game-high 17 points in the loss.