By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Despite being a part of the Munford Lady Cougars’ first Sectional in 2013, many of the returning players about to take the court last Friday night for the first round Region 7-3A contest against Bartlett had limited experience.
Last season the quintet of Lauren Zvolanek, Robneisha “Bird” Lee, Shaliyah Wiggins, Alex Turner and Kierra Webb saw most of the minutes. Munford Head Coach Steve Poindexter felt that might be a factor in the early moments of the do-or-die game in the Munford Gymnasium.
“If you look out there on the floor, there’s really not much experience in this situation,” he noted. “That’s what we talked about, when you get to the first and second round of the Region, it’s loser go home. We’re young. We don’t necessarily have a senior dressing out on the floor. But most teams you play, they have people who don’t want to go home. I don’t care what the record is or what the other team looks like. You’re going to have to fight to advance.”
Munford fought to erase the Lady Panthers’ 10-7 first quarter lead and end up prevailing 50-34 to advance to the Regional Semifinals Monday night at Bolton against the Bolton Lady Wildcats.
“I thought nerves were a factor,” Poindexter said about the Bartlett game. “We missed I don’t know how many layups in the first half. I told them, ‘You have to make this a regular, routine. You can’t make this more than what it is. It’s a layup.’”
Those missed opportuntites by the Lady Cougars combined with Lady Panthers Jessica Jackson and Shondria Scruggs driving to the basket helped Bartlett jump ahead 10-7.
When Jackson score the first basket of the second quarter, the Lady Panthers were ahead five points. Alex Wherry ended Munford’s drought with a three-pointer. The junior’s long range shot sparked a 12-0 run by the Lady Cougars to take a 19-12 lead.
During that run Johnna Jones, Lindsey Owen, Kierra Richardson and Phenicia Howard scored. Howard made the score 21-13 drive to the bucket for a layup. A Wherry jumper at the buzzer made the halftime score 23-16.
“I thought we settled in for the most part defensively,” Poindexter noted. “They have three good guards. They had three seniors out there on the floor. They fought and didn’t want to go home. We did a really good job in the second half. When they made that run there to cut to two, I think we settled down and got some stops and where able to make some plays on defense.”
The Lady Panthers were able to make the score 23-21 early in the third quarter when Kelsey Baker scored on a three-point play.
Once again Wherry had the timely basket hitting a jumper. That bucket sent the Lady Cougars on a 10-5 run to close out the quarter. In that stretch Richardson scored 4 points and Owen stepped outside and drained a trey.
Munford’s 33-26 lead grew in the fourth quarter 42-32 when point guard Precious Mills made a steal and raced to the other end of the court for a layup.
The Lady Cougars were able to maintain the double figure lead down the stretch behind first throw shooting from Wherry, Richardson and Mills.
The 50-34 win allowed Munford to advance to the next round for a rematch against Bolton. On Jan. 13, the Lady Cougars defeated the Lady Wildcats at home by 7 points.
“You can throw that one out the window,” Poindexter said. “It’s a lot different. When you played them the first time, obvisously you were on your home floor and if you lose you get to come to practice the next day and get ready for the next game.
“There’s a lot on the line,” he concluded. “I think it’s going to come down to whoever gets that out of their mind and just focuses on the game. It’s just a basketball game and it’s not bigger than that.”