by Lisa Voyles and Time Tutor/Chickasaw Journal
Houlka leapt out to a 5-2 lead on a three-pointer followed by a jumper from senior Jesse Kelly.
South Pontotoc took advantage of Houlka errors to run off nine unanswered points. After a Houlka missed shot, Welch again drove through the middle of the Houlka defense for another layup to stretch the margin to 8-5. Welch followed his own miss for the baseline putback that made it 10-5 and Jonathan Duncan hit one of two free throws to extend the South Pontotoc lead to 11-5.
Houlka trimmed the deficit to three when senior forward R.J. Johnson drove the alley for a reverse layup while drawing the foul. Johnson capped the three-point play to make it 11-8.
With the Wildcats down 13-10, senior guard Vell Harris drained a three from the left wing to tie the game. Following a South Pontotoc turnover, junior forward Titus White converted a 13-footer in the lane to give the Wildcats a 15-13 advantage.
The battle for the scoreboard was on.
In the second quarter, Houlka narrowed the margin to 21-20 on sophomore forward Tyreque Reed’s driving layup along the right baseline, but the Cougars then stretched their lead even further.
As quickly as South Pontotoc’s shooting got hot, Houlka found its touch as well. The Wilcats responded with a 12-0 run to take the lead.
Trailing 27-22, Titus White drove the right baseline and hit the layup as he was fouled. He then capped the three-point play to pull Houlka to within 27-25.
White then stole and, after three Houlka missed shots, he pulled down the offensive rebound and hit the putback to knot the game at 27.
The Wildcats extended to a five-point lead when Kelly knocked down a three-pointer from the left corner, then hit a baseline layup to send Houlka’s lead to 32-27.
Moments later, Reed fielded a pass from Harris along the baseline and dropped in a layup to send the Wildcats into halftime with a 35-29 advantage.
Wildcats on the perimeter
Houlka opened the second half with a 9-1 run, highlighted by the perimeter shooting of senior guard Harris. His quarter-opening three from the top of the key pushed Houlka’s lead to 38-29. Kelly got involved as well. His right baseline layup and left baseline bank-in helped stretch the Wildcats’ lead to 44-30. Kelly also drained a long shot from the right wing for three of his game-high 24 points to make it 47-32.
South Pontotoc tried to rally on layups from Gregory and Hobson to trim the margin to 47-36.
But junior forward Johnathan Ford got his only points of the game, a three-pointer from the right corner, to send the margin back to 50-36. Johnson added a steal and hit a layup to make it 52-36 with 1:16 left in the third. The Wildcats led 52-39 going into the final period.
Houlka continued its perimeter assault in the final period. Kelly nailed a trey from the right corner and Harris added a three from the left corner to give the Wildcats a comfortable 62-46 lead. Harris added 11 points for Houlka.
But over their last four possessions, the Cougars missed three shots and turned the ball over twice. Meanwhile, two free throws each from White and junior forward Josh Clair, and another driving layup through South Pontotoc’s defense sent the score to 68-50 and ended any of the Cougars’ hopes for a comeback.
Lady Cats bag win over Blue Mountain
The Lady Cats came up on the winning end of the scoreboard last week, as they handed Blue Mountain a 41-39 loss in tournament play.
The Cougars took an early lead in the first quarter, but the Lady Wildcats came back, consistently chipping away at the score and holding the Lady Cougars at the goal for the win.
Shainece McKinney led for the Lady Cats with 17 points, followed by Cassie Homan with eight. Jesse Moore and Chianne Edington added five each with Erica Knox and Temp Webb rounding out the scoring.
The Lady Cats fell earlier in the week to South Pontotoc and Ingomar while the Wildcats picked up wins over South and Ingomar.
Both teams were set to host Hickory Flat Tuesday and will be on the road to Myrtle Saturday.