Jackets stop Ponder for area title

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The Mineola Yellowjackets leveraged a fast first-quarter start to defeat the Ponder Lions Friday in the area playoffs, 52-42. Guard T.J. Moreland went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the first quarter as the Jackets’ tempo, physicality and ball movement overwhelmed the Lions.

Mineola maintained the edge throughout the game. Their focus and effort was clearly at a playoff level. 

Offensively, the Yellowjackets made great use of feeding the ball into the high post with wingers then cutting to the basket. Manipulation of the high post in their offensive was one of the keys to victory.

On the defensive end of the court, the Yellowjackets played a tireless man-to-man pressure defense all night. Notably, they were no longer exposed to quick cross-court passes or backdoor breaks to the basket. Their defensive reaction time was excellent. 

Ponder was a talented basketball team that knew how to maneuver to and around the basket. They scored their requisite inside points, but they could never piece enough sequences together to challenge for the lead.

Late in the second quarter, the Lions closed to nine points. A Kaleb Griffin bucket, a steal by Jonah Fischer and an offensive tip-in by Dawson Pendergrass reversed that closing trend. 

Mineola’s shooting went cold in the third quarter, and back-to-back turnovers left the door open for Ponder. With 2:32 on the clock in the third, the Lions had closed the gap to eight points and had captured the momentum. 

Moreland hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth, and Pendergrass ended the Ponder surge with an offensive rebound put-back which pushed the lead back to 10 points. The Yellowjackets hit five free-throws in the final minutes to preserve the win. 

While it would be tempting to name Moreland (21 points) as an offensive player of the game and Pendergrass a defensive player of the game for his rebounding and work ethic, this win was a team win. 

The Yellowjackets had well-considered offensive and defensive game plans, and the team worked them both to produce a solid victory.  

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