By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The front of the Munford Lady Cougars jersey could read “on” and “off.”
It appeared for the past 8 days, the Lady Cougars have played one game with intensity, focus and desire. Then the next game Munford would depend on its athleticism, natural ability and superior skills to win.
First the Lady Cougars appeared to go through the motions beating rival Brighton in the District 13-3A Tournament Semifinals. Munford earned a spot in the district championship game beating Dyer County 32-31.
The victory over the Lady Choctaws set up Friday night’s Region 7-3A Girls Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal matchup in the Munford Gymnasium against the No. 4 seeded Cordova Lady Wolves of District 14-3A.
Without thrills and gasps, the Lady Cougars built a 22-8 halftime lead. In the second half Munford turned up the intensity to pull away for a 55-29 victory to advance to Monday’s Region Semifinals.
“Like I told them after the game,” Munford Head Coach Steve Poindexter said, “‘At some point and time if you guys are going to win anything big, you’re going to have to learn it doesn’t matter who you are playing. It has to be on at all times. It’s not a switch you turn on or off at your convenience.’
“It is tough playing against a team you know you have to play really, really bad in order for them to win,” he added. “But championship teams seem to find a way to do that. Not district championship teams, I mean Region, Sub-State and teams going to State. Those are the teams, that’s why they’re there.”
Munford did manage to take the next step to a championship advancing in the do-or-die game over Cordova. The Lady Wolves managed to cut the Lady Cougars lead to 24-14 early in the third quarter.
Lady Cougars standout Gabby Crawford ended any hopes of a Cordova comeback and upset with a three-point play to make the score 27-14.
That play sparked a 9-2 run for Munford. Lady Cougar Shania Johnson drove to the rim for a layup to make the score 29-14.
Moments later Crawford makes a steal and makes the basket to make the score 31-14. When Crawford hit a jumper, Munford was ahead 33-16.
The third quarter concluded with Johnna Jones hitting a layup and Crawford making a pair of foul shots to go ahead 37-19.
In the fourth quarter, Crawford, Jones and Johnson were joined by teammates Kyla Taylor and Ali Gover. The three-pointer made by Gover made the score 53-24.
“They won and I thought they did some good things,” Poindexter said of his squad. “There were some hustle plays. Crawford diving into the wall during a 25-point game. There was definitely some hustle and positive things.
“But at the end of the day, we want to get to the next level,” he continued. “And for us, it may be more of a mental barrier there than physical. This is all about them learning and growing.”
The Lady Cougars earned a spot in the Regional Semifinals to be played Monday at 6 p.m. at Arlington High School. That round is also an elimination format for the loser.
“I guarantee, whoever we’re playing Monday, they’ll turn on that mental switch,” Poindexter concluded. “We’ll see it flipped on then and get a great effort.”