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Gordon gives No. 1 Warriors big lift off bench

Jan. 6—PONTOTOC — Alexis Gordon's big game off the bench helped Pontotoc further its claim as the best girls basketball team in Northeast Mississippi.

Gordon scored 16 points, and the No. 1-ranked Warriors held off No. 3 Starkville 67-60 at the Tangle on the Trail on Saturday.

Pontotoc was missing its best player, Channing Lane, who suffered a concussion the night before against West Point. Key reserve Mackenzie McGuirt is also out injured.

"I was like, I've got to step up, because they're out," Gordon said.

Gordon scored 12 of her points in the first half as Pontotoc (18-1) took a 35-34 lead into the break. Her layup gave the Warriors a 51-43 lead with 1:46 left in the third quarter, but Starkville (14-3) got back within a point early in the fourth.

Pontotoc then went on a spurt and opened up a 63-52 lead with 4:40 left.

The Warriors benefited from 27 Starkville turnovers. That helped them get 14 more shot attempts than the Yellow Jackets.

"We came out after halftime, I thought we regrouped some, and then the turnover bug came back to bite us," Starkville coach Kristie Williams said. "That's been one of our nemeses this whole season."

Pontotoc shot 26 of 58 (48.3%) from the field. Alayna Ball notched 16 points, Kori Grace Ware had 12 and Emarie Boddie added 10.

Zariah Brown scored 20 points and Tootie Lockett 19 for the Yellow Jackets. Forward Zariyah Edwards, the team's leading scorer for the season, was limited by foul trouble and finished with four points.

Starkville shot 23 of 44 (52.3%) from the field.

"Our energy and intensity today was something that we've had a lot this year, but then we've really gotten away from that," Pontotoc coach Kyle Heard said. "We got an over-inflated view of how good we are, and some people humbled us over (Christmas) break. I think we came back and realized we've got to get back to the fundamentals of what made us this good and playing as a team."

Three-Pointers

Turning Point: After Starkville got within 53-52 early in the fourth, Pontotoc went on a 10-0 run.

Point Maker: Gordon shot 7 of 14 from the field. She also had six rebounds.

Talking Point: "I told her the other day, 'Alexis, I'm putting you into the game to score points, and if you're not going to go score for me, I'm not playing you.' She took that as a challenge, I guess, and today she came out with a real intensity about her." — Heard, on Gordon

brad.locke@journalinc.com