By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – For the first seven games of the 2011-12 basketball season, the Itawamba Community College Lady Indians had compiled a solid 5-2 record.
But the eighth game was the one that could make their pre-Christmas schedule successful.
The Lady Indians chalked that game up in the win column Thursday, dispatching the Coahoma Lady Tigers 69-59 in the North Division opener for both teams.
“Any North game is more important than anything else,” Itawamba head coach Nanci Gray said.
This was ICC’s only North contest prior to Christmas, and the Lady Indians made the most of their opportunities on the court.
In the second half, a LaPrecious Naylon free throw gave the Lady Indians (6-2, 1-0) their biggest margin of the period at 59-42. But Coahoma (4-3, 0-1) turned up its defensive pressure, and a Sharhonda Vauhgn basket with 1 minute, 23 seconds to play pulled the visitors within 65-59.
Itawamba had the appropriate response under pressure, beginning with two free throws by Naylon with 1:13 remaining. That was followed by a nice penetration and layup by Shay Bonner from Starkville with 32 seconds left, Itawamba’s first field goal in over nine minutes, to clinch the victory.
“Our defensive intensity was not what I wanted, but Coahoma was hard to guard,” Gray said. “I was pleased with the way we played our zone defense when we switched to that in the second half.”
Naylon, from Eutaw, Ala., paced four Lady Indians in double figures with 18 points, with Vechatita Bonner adding 17. Erica Collins led Coahoma with 14.
Looking smooth on offense in the first half, Itawamba moved to an early 28-10 lead, capped by a 3-pointer by Ty-Nita Baker from Houston. The Lady Tigers did fight back, pulling within 39-36 with 16:04 left in the second half on a Ciara Morgan basket, only to have Baker drain three free throws to halt the Coahoma momentum.
(M) Itawamba 84, Coahoma 80: The Itawamba men played one of their best first halves of the young season, but had to rely on the free throw line in the second half to claim the win.
The Indians (3-5, 1-0) made 15 free throws in the second period. Coahoma (5-3, 0-1) overcame a 48-32 halftime deficit, and pulled within 81-80 with 32 second left on a Kenny Harris tip-in.
Anthony McDonald from Aberdeen calmly sank two free throws with 20 seconds left to give Itawamba some breathing room, then Tyrone McNeese added another free shot to ice the win.
“Unfortunately, we’re a very young team, and we were very happy with ourselves at the half,” Itawamba head coach Marty Cooper said. “We did a good job in the last minute taking care of the win.”
McDonald was tops in scoring for ICC with 22, and Rashard Harris led Coahoma with 23.
Itawamba has two contests remaining before its Christmas break.