Special to the Journal
FULTON – The Itawamba Indians are battling to win the North Division regular-season basketball title.
The carrot for that would be hosting the state tournament.
The Indians inched closer to grabbing that prize Thursday night, overcoming the Northwest Rangers 95-83 to maintain their hold on first place in the division.
“Our guys tighten up tonight on the defensive end,” Indians head coach Grant Pate said. “We really played together as a team on the defensive end.
“It’s an important win because it’s a division win. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and we need to pay close attention to the details.”
The detail of this contest was a close, hard-fought game, which Northwest (10-8, 6-2) led 47-43 at the half.
The matchup remained extremely tight in the second half, with a 9-0 spurt by the Indians (13-7, 8-1) giving the home team just the faintest of breathing room.
A pair of free throws by Dee Gates from Baldwyn began the run. Lakee Westbrook from Shannon added a field goal, and Johnathan McGee’s basket with 6 minutes, 36 seconds to play gave Itawamba a 75-69 advantage.
McGee shot in a game-high 28 points to lead Itawamba, with Sharwyn McGee leading Northwest with 19. Former Tupelo player Rashon Coleman added 17 for Northwest.
(W) ICC 77, Northwest 72: After grabbing a double-digit lead in the first half, the Lady Indians had to hold on late to maintain a tie for first in the North.
Itawamba (12-8, 8-1) moved to a 42-27 halftime lead, but Northwest (11-6, 5-4) pulled within 75-72 with 15 seconds to play on a Carshava Sutton rebound and basket. ICC made two free throws in the closing time to ice the win.
“We knew they were going to make a second-half run,” Lady Indians head coach Nanci Gray said. “Down the stretch, we were able to get the ball in the right hands.”
Leslie Robinson from Belmont and Jayla Chills from Ripley each tallied 13 to lead Itawamba. Sutton was hard to stop, totaling 33 for Northwest.