Griffin guides LCHS girls past Pontotoc

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2011

JACKSON – The Lawrence County Lady Cougars are one step closerto achieving their goal: win their first ever State Championship.The Lady Cougars eliminated the Pontotoc Lady Warriors 62-54 Mondaynight from the MHSAA Class 4A State Tournament in the JacksonColiseum.

This is the first appearance in the Big House for the Lady Cougarsin over 25 years.

“This was a huge win for us,” said Lawrence County coach VickiRutland. “The girls worked very hard to get here. Everyone steppedup and really played well. It was a total team effort.”

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In other 4A tournament action, the New Albany Lady Bulldogs bit theSouth Jones Lady Braves 57-52.

In boys’ 4A action, the Pass Christian Pirates escaped the Lions ofRosa Fort with a 55-54 win. In the nightcap, the St. StanislausRock-A-Chaws defeated New Albany 73-66.

The Lady Cougars (26-8) will return to battle the New Albany LadyBulldogs (28-4) for the coveted gold ball in the State 4A GirlsChampionship game Friday, March 4. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Coach Rutland answered a question about the next opponent in thechampionship game. “New Albany is a big, experienced and wellcoached team, but we are not going to worry ourselves about them.We are going to focus on our strengths and improve on the thingsthat got us here.”

Lawrence Co. 62, Pontotoc 54

The Lawrence County faithful followers proudly came to Jackson andsupported their school’s first appearance in the Big House in yearswith a sea of maroon-colored shirts that overshadowed the Pontotocfans who wore black.

Basketball fans witnessed a epic battle between two tough teamsbattling back-and-forth throughout the game. In the first quarter,the Lady Warriors quickly got on the board and gained a five-pointadvantage before Lawrence County woke up. The Lady Cougars ralliedto capture a 17-13 lead after one quarter.

In the second quarter, both teams continued to trade baskets asLawrence County took a 32-27 lead into halftime.

In the second half, the Lady Warriors came out and stole the thirdquarter show by outscoring the Lady Cougars 13-7. They took a brief1-point lead, 40-39, going into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, Lawrence County refused to go down without afight as they outscored Pontotoc 23-14. Junior forward TiariaGriffin took over and pumped in a game-high 31 points. She alsograbbed 7 rebounds and collected five steals.

“Coach Rutland wanted me to step up and be the team’s leader,” saidTiaria Griffin. “At first, it was hard to get things going early,but my teammates really stepped up and played their roles wellwhich allowed me to get into my rhythm.”

LCHS junior forward Mary Margaret McLaurin contributed 14 points.Alli Harris was the leader on the boards with 12 rebounds. She alsonetted 8 points.

“I wanted to make a statement early and do whatever it took towin,” said Harris “Pontotoc tried to push my emotions throughoutthe game, but I would not allow that because I wanted towin.”

“Tiaria played very well and hard tonight,” continued Rutland.”McLaurin also had a big game for us as she picked up her game whenthey were double and triple teaming Tiaria. Alli Harris did a greatjob crashing the boards which gave us more opportunities toscore.”

Ebony Briner was the leader for the Lady Warriors as the scored ateam-high 18 points. Rhandi Ball provided a double-double forPontotoc with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Pontotoc concludes theirseason with a 24-7 worksheet.

“Lawrence County has a good team that plays hard,” said Pontotoccoach Bill Russell. “We knew coming into the game that it would betough to defend No.3 (Tiaria Griffin), because we did not haveanyone in our lineup to match up with her athletic abilities. Ourgirls played very hard and battled every minute of the game.

“The overall factor of the game was rebounds,” continued Russell.”Lawrence County killed us on the boards, getting more chances toscore and it is tough to win games when you give someone that manyopportunities.”