By PATRICK CASEY
HOLMES COUNTY- It was a busy week for the Ponce de Leon Pirates as both the girls and boys basketball teams faced Central High School, then traveled to Bethlehem for the latest rendition of the Holmes County Christmas Tournament.
The Lady Pirates defeated the Jaguars on Dec. 6 to earn another District 1, Class A victory as Mandie Rushing’s outside shooting proved to be the catalyst in helping the host squad to a 41-32 decision. Rushing made four shots from behind the three-point line while Taylor West scored 10 points via interior shots combined with four free throws to help overcome a 15-6 deficit after the first eight minutes of the game.
PDL forced 25 turnovers from a tall, athletic squad that would make only 12-of-47 shots from the field and 7-of-15 from the free throw line.
The Pirates countered by hitting 14-of-44 shots from the field and 7-of-14 from the charity stripe but the +8 differential in turnovers aided in Ponce de Leon holding on for the win in a contest that was not their best offensive performance of the season.
Senior Haley Gauthier led the Jaguars with 14 points while Carrie Retzlaff added eight as the Santa Rosa County squad fell to 5-3 overall and 1-3 in district play.
The Lady Pirates defeated Bethlehem 63-46 in the opening round of the Holmes County Christmas Tournament but fell to Holmes County in Saturday night’s final by a score of 67-61.
The Ponce de Leon boys team also defeated Central on Dec. 6 by a score of 51-42 as Koby Townsend scored 17 points with teammate Nick Price adding 15.
The Pirates led 23-21 at the half but made 9-of-20 shots from the field over the final 16 minutes to pull away. Ponce de Leon has been helped by excellent free throw shooting so far this season, at least in home games, as they hit on 22-of-24 from the charity stripe.
Central got 20 points from Brad Moye and 12 from Ryan Hatcher in the loss.
The Pirates had to face Bethlehem in the opening round of the Holmes County Christmas Tournament and dropped a 63-47 decision on Friday night, their second loss in Bethlehem on the year, to fall to 3-3 overall.
Team Notes: Ponce de Leon won both junior varsity games from Central as the girls took a 27-24 decision with the boys winning 47-31. The Lady Pirates have won 11 straight against Central and are 23-6 against the school since the 1994-95 season. Central had not defeated the PDL girls since a 52-47 win in Central on Dec. 10, 2001. Tim Alford is in his 22nd season as the girls head coach and is 466-171 at the school in varsity contests in that time. Both the girls and boys varsity squads are making a rare overnight trip on Friday as they travel to Lafayette County for a game against Mayo, then spend the night to play at Trenton on Saturday afternoon.
By PATRICK CASEY