Northeast Mississippi Community College’s men and women’s basketball teams opened North Division play on a positive note with a sweep of rival Northwest Mississippi on Thursday, Dec. 2 at Bonner Arnold Coliseum in Booneville.
Ricky Ford’s Lady Tigers improved to 3-4 on the year but more importantly picked up their first division win of the year after knocking off the Lady Rangers 80-70.
David Robbins’ Tigers followed suit with an 81-80 squeaker in the nightcap that saw the Tigers also pick up their third win of the young season.
In the nightcap, the crowd at Bonner Arnold Coliseum was in for a show midway through the second half as Tiger big man Robert Wade (Nashville, Tenn.) took over and kept the Rangers at bay as the Tigers held on for their second one-point win in as many years.
During the 2009-10 season, Northeast captured a 79-78 victory over Northwest at Bonner Arnold Coliseum on January 11 as post player Tyrie Berry went off for 21 points.
Wade matched Berry’s output less than a year later and provided an offensive spark to the Tiger lineup after coming off the bench with 8:35 left in the game.
Wade, who finished with a double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds), pulled down a Reggie Brown miss just 17 seconds after entering the game and then proceeded to push the Tiger lead to nine when he hit the front end of a one-and-one free throw effort. Wade made good 23 seconds after his free throw as he sliced his way to the goal for an easy bucket pushing the Tiger lead to 67-56 with 7:32 left in the game.
Northeast continued to rely on its big man as the Tiger post player picked up his sixteenth point of the night with 6:58 left in the game when he connected on the back end of a two-shot foul after driving to the hoop and staking the Tigers to a 10-point advantage at 68-58.
Northwest made a game of it late as the Rangers rallied from six down with 43 seconds left to pull to within two on a Darius Wood deuce but a pair of Cody Garrett (Alcorn Central) freebies with 17 seconds remaining proved to be too much for the Rangers.
“Their press affected us in the second half and we got sloppy and that's what enabled them to get back in the game,” Robbins said. “We have to teach our freshman how important each and every game is but it is huge to open with a North Division win.”
Reggie Fonderen’s three-pointer with three seconds remaining pulled the visitors to within 81-80 but Northeast was able to run the remaining ticks off the clock and pick up its first division win of the year.
In the opener, Anna Brooke Page (Belmont) and Alex Hill (Jackson, Tenn.) both had double-doubles for the Lady Tigers as Ford’s Lady Tigers scored their first win against the Lady Rangers in Bonner Arnold Coliseum since Northeast captured a 10-point decision (69-59) on Feb. 5, 2009.
The 2009 victory also marked the last sweep of Northwest at Bonner Arnold Coliseum prior to Thursday night’s pair of wins.
Page paced the Lady Tigers with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Hill scored an even 10 points in addition to her 14 boards. In total, four Lady Tigers tallied double-digits against the Lady Rangers with Amber Johnson (Pine Grove) clocking 17 points and New Site’s Bree Harris going perfect from the floor (4-for-4 including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc) in her 11-point effort.
After trailing 25-21 with 5:24 left in the first half following a Brittany Patton bucket, Northeast rallied for a 38-9 run that spanned 17:56 and included a 25-5 run to start the second half that iced the game for the Lady Tigers.
Page and Johnson keyed the second half run for the Lady Tigers with 15 combined points. Page contributed eight while Johnson knocked down seven including a three-pointer with 14:08 left that gave the Lady Tigers a 56-34 advantage.
“I told them that we were playing pretty good defense but were too timid,” Ford said about his halftime motivation. “We had to get out and pick up the tempo and we were able to get a fast break or a couple of big threes that really took it out of them in the second half.”
Sophomore Chelsey Whitaker (Alcorn Central) finished the run with five points while Tiffany Martin (Olive Branch) had a pair during the run.
Hill’s old-fashioned, three-point play with 12:32 left in the game capped the run and gave the Lady Tigers their biggest lead of the night at 59-34.
Northwest closed the gap to within seven late in the half but the Lady Tigers kept the Lady Rangers at bay.
Northeast continues its trek through the North Division when the Tigers and Lady Tigers head to Goodman to take on Holmes Community College on Monday, December 6 at 6 and 8 p.m.
Northeast’s final home game of the 2010 year will be on Tuesday, December 14 when Northwest-Shoals pays a return trip to Booneville for 5 and 7 p.m. tips. The Tigers and Lady Tigers final game before the Christmas holidays sees the Northeast squads travel to Lynchburg, Tenn., to take on Motlow State on Thursday, Dec. 16.