By Gene Phelp/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Amber Johnson always cheers for the underdog.
Monday night, nobody could blame Northeast’s guard if she gave herself a standing ovation for her play in the Lady Tigers’ 84-67 state community college North Division win against favored Itawamba.
Johnson, a freshman from Pine Grove, scored a career-high and team-high 17 points to power a 50-point Northeast second half.
“We’ve had a rough year,” Johnson said. “We wanted to give it all we had tonight. I knew it would be a tough game. ICC’s a good team.
“But, I’ve always been for the underdog and this feels good.”
The Lady Tigers (6-12, 4-6) had lost earlier this season to ICC (15-8, 7-3) by 36 points, 84-48, in Fulton.
The win also ended a five-game Northeast losing streak to ICC. The Lady Tigers’ last win against the Indians came in the 2007 state tournament.
“We’re not a very talented team and we know that,” Northeast coach Ricky Ford said. “They played with a tremendous amount of heart … everybody. They refused to lose. I thought ICC was a little flat and our kids laid it on the line.”
The victory damaged ICC’s hopes of winning the regular season division title. The Lady Indians came into the game having won 12 of their last 14 games.
“Northeast wanted it more than we wanted it,” said ICC’s Lori Crudup, who scored 19 points to lead the Lady Indians. “We knew after the first half it was going to be a tough game.”
ICC, behind 13 points from Crudup, led 35-34 at halftime.
The lead see-sawed early in the second half before Northeast surged ahead, 56-48, with 10 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in baskets by Al’Lisha Hudson, Miranda Phillips and Chelsey Whitaker.
Johnson scored on a layup a minute later to start a 9-0 run that gave the Lady Tigers a 65-51 lead. The visitors never recovered.
Northeast, which outscored ICC 50-32 in the second half, led by as many as 23 points in the final two minutes.
Ranisha Williams added 16 points, Rumane Butler 14 and Hudson 11 for the Lady Tigers. Birdie Bowens added 15 for ICC, but was held to just one 3-pointer. She hit three against Northeast in the first meeting.
The player who was in charge of defending Bowens in the rematch was Johnson.
“There are a lot of things Amber does that go overlooked,” Ford said. “Her job was to defend Bowens and she did a good job keeping her from shooting the 3.”
(M) ICC 75, Northeast 66
Vincenzo Nelson scored 17 points, including a crucial tip-in with 47 seconds remaining to lead ICC.
The Indians, who led by as many as 15 points in the second half, saw the Tigers cut their lead to three points twice in the final four minutes.
The last time was on Tyler Pritchard’s jumper with 1:21 remaining to cut ICC’s lead to 69-66.
ICC’s Todd Nelson missed a pair of free throws on the Indians’ next possession, but an alert Vincenzo Nelson grabbed the ball just off the rim for the field goal.
ICC (14-8, 6-4) took sole possession of second place in the North with the win; Northeast (11-10, 5-5) slipped to third.