By JONATHAN WISE/ Sports Writer
ECRU — Behind a well-balanced scoring effort that resulted in four Vikings in double figures on the night, North Pontotoc picked up a solid 91-62 win over rival South Pontotoc Friday to improve to 13-7 on the year.
The first half
North exploded out of the gates, taking a quick 11-1 lead on a Ben Shannon 3-pointer with 5:11 remaining in the first quarter.
Gradually separating themselves from the Cougars, the Vikings raced to a 32-13 lead at the end of the first behind the excellent inside play of junior forward Murphy Daniel, who recorded 14 of his 16 points in the period.
The Cougars regained a measure of composure, largely matching the Vikings in the second period and not allowing the game to get completely out of hand.
The hosts went into the locker room with a comfortable 45-26 advantage.
“We had a great first quarter,” said North Pontotoc head coach Chris Petit. “As good as we played the first quarter, I thought we got a little sloppy in the second quarter with a big lead, and we kind of went through the motions a little bit.
“I told them ‘this is a rivalry game, and anything can happen’. In the third quarter, I thought we came out and played sloppy again. I thought we never played particularly well defensively all night.”
The second half
South (7-13) was able to cut it to a 50-36 deficit on a 3-pointer from Blake Lovell in the early minutes of the half and again to 58-45 on a driving Gage Welch layup with 2:36 remaining in the third, but they could never garner enough momentum to really make a game of it down the stretch.
The Vikings again took control in the fourth, outscoring the Cougars 26-10 over the final eight minutes to cruise to the 91-62 victory.
Junior guard Marcus Green led the way for North with 21 points, with Shannon adding 17.
South’s Armon Gregory paced all scorers with 22 points.
The coaches’ take
“South doesn’t really have a post presence, so we tried to play two post players,” Coach Petit explained. “We can take care of business on the offensive end, but it is a liability on the defensive end because they are forced to guard guys off the bounce.
“When we found a lineup we liked towards the end of the game,” he added, “we were able to open it back up a little. “
“This was our third game this week,” said Cougar head coach Shane Hayles. “The guys have battled through two hard fought division games, so it was going to be a test just to come out and compete at a high level.
“It helped that we were playing our county rivals, of course. They came through with flying colors.
“We didn’t get the victory on the scoreboard, but they gave me maximum effort,” he added, “like they have all year.”