By Blake Long | Special to the Journal
BOONEVILLE – It’s taken the Itawamba Indians 15 games, but Marty Cooper believes his team is finally playing mentally tough basketball.
Their actions in front of a capacity crowd at Bonner Arnold Coliseum on Monday night proved it, overcoming a late deficit to upset Northeast, ranked 13th nationally in the NJCAA’s latest poll, 72-69 on their home court.
“I think it was the first time all year we showed mental toughness,” Cooper said. “We battled through the adversity and hung in there and didn’t hang our heads tonight.”
There was plenty of adversity for both teams in a tightly contested game. The contest featured 13 lead changes and 10 ties before the Indians reclaimed the lead for good with just seconds to play.
After being shut down for most of the second half, Tupelo native Deontaye Ewing put ICC up 70-68 with 11 seconds to play on an old-fashioned three-point play.
Ewing’s basket would eventually be the game-winner for the Indians, who improved to 7-8 overall but more importantly are 3-1 inside the MACJC North Division.
“I spread them out and just drove to the hole,” the freshman said. “I knew it was either gonna be a foul or a basket.”
Missing by hitting
On their return trip down the court, Northeast’s Acie Vance was fouled attempting a layup. Vance missed the first free throw, and following a timeout, drained the second while trying to miss the shot to set up a game-tying attempt.
“Well, after he missed the first he had to miss on purpose to try and have an opportunity to tie it up,” Tigers coach David Robbins said. “But he knocked the bottom out of it.
“If we had to do it all over again, I’d want Acie to shoot them again.”
Northeast (11-3, 2-3) was outrebounded by an opponent for the first time all season, with the Indians holding a 38-31 advantage.
Quintin Lee led the Indians, who held a 32-27 halftime lead, with 19 points while Ewing added 16. Vance dropped in 17 and Jermaine Hollimon scored 13 for Northeast.
Video from ICC’s Adam Gore