By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Anyone in attendance at last night’s District 13-3A Girls Basketball Tournament championship game last Monday night could figure out quickly what was Steve Poindexter’s game plan.
Poindexter, 2017 District 13-3A Coach of the Year, gave his Munford Lady Cougars a simple strategy before taking on the Dyer County Lady Choctaws for the title. After two quarters of action, it was apparent Munford was following instructions as the Munford Gymnasium scoreboard read 29-12 at halftime.
“We had to play defense,” Lady Cougar senior Johnna Jones said. “That was our key. We could not let them get into the paint. Most of their points came in the paint.”
The Lady Choctaws started to score more points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Cougars held on to win 72-67. Munford earned a No. 1 seed in the upcoming Region 7-3A Tournament and will host a first round game Friday night at 7 p.m.
Jones’ fellow senior Shania “My Maine Girl” Johnson said the road to hosting Regionals and winning the district title was a simple philosophy entering the Dyer County game.
“Play defense and stay tight and we’ll win,” the native of Maine recalled.
Johnson was Munford’s ‘Main Girl’ throughout the District Tournament winning the MVP award. Along with help from teammate Ali Gover, Johnson sparked the Lady Cougars to a 17-point halftime advantage.
Gover scored 6 points in the first quarter helping her earn All-Tournament honors. When Jones hit a triple near the end of the opening period, Munford was ahead 15-5 entering the second quarter.
Joining Gover on the All-Tournament team were teammates Johnson, Jones and Gabby Crawford. Crawford, 2017 District 13-3A MVP, started the second quarter with a jumper to make the score 17-7.
After buckets from Jones and Gover made the score 22-9, Johnson closed out the first half with a pair of three-pointers to make the tally 28-12. The Lady Cougars were ahead 29-12 at the break.
Dyer County’s offense started to click more in the third quarter with 20 points in the period. But Munford was keeping pace with 25 points in the third to make the score 54-32.
With a minute and 4 seconds left in the period Jones drove to the rim for a layup, drawing a foul. Her foul shot made the score 51-31. Then it appeared the game was put away when Jones drained a triple to make the advantage 22 points entering the fourth quarter.
In three quarters the Lady Choctaws managed only 32 points. In the fourth quarter Dyer County would score 35 points using pressure defense to create offense.
“We turned the ball over,” Johnson acknowledged. “When they trapped, we were supposed to switch the ball and follow through.
“I got a little mad,” she continued. “I said, ‘If they trap, we’ve got to follow. We have to pull together and get this win. We have to pull it out because we’ve come to far not to.’”
With less than 3 minutes left in the game, Dyer County made the score 59-54. Johnson stepped to the free-throw line to made a pair of foul shots making the tally 61-54.
Down the stretch Munford received free throws from Johnson, Jones and Crawford. Jones went 4 of 4 from the line to help the Lady Cougars earn the championship.
“I was motivated because it was the championship game and Dyer County because this is my last year and I’m going off to college,” Jones said. “So all I can do is give my all.
“We had to kick it in because when they started to come back and when Gabby went out for a timeout, we had to regroup,” she added. “We had to get the offense and defense together. Especially the defense. So we pulled it out.”
All the Lady Cougars were on the same page entering the Dyer County championship game. As Regional approaches, Munford players still appear to be on one accord.
“Winning, winning the championship,” Jones said. “That’s our focus. But we’re going one game at a time.”
Johnson echoed Jones sentiments.
“Take it one game at a time,” she concluded. “I think we’ll go further than last year, but one game at a time.”
For a moment it appeared the First Round Region 7-3A Girls Basketball Tournament contest would be smooth sailing for the No. 1 seeded Munford Lady Cougars.
The Lady Cougars jumped ahead 10-0 in the first quarter Friday night in the Munford Gymnasium ahead of the No. 4 seeded Cordova Lady Wolves. But a pair of baskets before the conclusion of the opening period helped the Lady Wolves trim the deficit in half.
Munford’s 10-5 advantage was cut to 10-8 early in the fourth quarter. That was as close as Cordova would get the entire contest. The Lady Cougars were able to prevail 40-28 to advance to the Region 7-3A Semifinals to hosted at Brighton High School Monday night at 6 p.m.
The Lady Wolves, of District 14-3A, had their 2016-17 season come to an end in Munford. Led by senior Andreana Wrister Cordova went down fighting. Wrister led the Lady Wolves with 9 points
The Lady Cougars were paced by All-District 13-3A guard Jones with 16 points. Her teammate Gabby Crawford added 14 points in the victory.
It was the combination of Jones and Crawford making 4 of 5 free throws that made the score 14-8 in the second quarter.
After Lady Cougar Kennisha Mason hit a three pointer, Munford was ahead 17-10. Cordova only trailed 17-14 at the break.
It was Jones and Crawford that helped Munford keep a little separation throughout the third quarter. Munford led 26-18 heading into the final quarter.
Crawford was the standout scoring in the post, making a pair of foul shots and hitting a put-back bucket in the fourth. Crawford located a couple of teammates for buckets including Jones on a fast break.
Munford will take on Hardin County Monday night. The Lady Tigers advanced after a 38-28 win over the Bartlett Lady Panthers Friday night.
The rest of the Region 7-3A Girls Basketball Tournament will take place at Brighton High School starting Monday night.