By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – With the Itawamba Community College Indians scheduled to be on the campus of Northeast Community College today for a pair of basketball games, Tigers coach David Robbins still has to shake his head sometimes.
“It’s amazing to me that people sometimes come to me and say, ‘tonight is the big one.’” Robbins said. “Well, they’re all pretty big.”
In this corner of Mississippi, this is one of the big ones for junior college basketball as neighbors Northeast and ICC will meet today, weather permitting. The women’s contest is slated for 5 p.m., with the men’s tip set for 7 p.m.
For the Tigers (10-11, 6-4), this is a game of some importance with the end of the regular season in sight. Simply put, a Northeast win puts them pretty much into a second place lock for the playoffs out of the North Division.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position to qualify, and to not be worrying about tiebreakers,” said Robbins, whose Tigers edged Itawamba in their previous meeting Jan. 17. “We just want to continue to play well this time of year.
“I still don’t think we’ve put a complete game together, but we’re continuing to get better. I think Itawamba’s on nice roll, too, and both teams are playing better than the first time we met.”
Robbins can point to some of the Tigers success the past couple of weeks to the improved play of Cedric Janes from Tennessee, with the consistency of Iuka’s Tyler Pritchard and Alcorn Central’s Cody Garret a plus. Robert Wade from Nashville leads the Tigers at 17.8 points per game, with Janes pacing the team in rebounds at 6.9 per game.
On Monday, the Tigers downed Coahoma 105-76. Itawamba (11-8, 5-3) beat Northwest Monday 79-71.
While both men’s squads come into this matchup on high notes, both women’s teams lost in their last outings.
Northeast lost to Coahoma Monday 93-60. Itawamba (15-4, 7-1) currently stands in first place in the North, and lost to Northwest Monday 79-71.
“What scares me the most is that both of us are coming off losses,” Lady Tigers coach Ricky Ford said. “We’ve kind of got our backs to the wall, and with two games left for us, we need a win to make the playoffs.
“I’m not really worried about the rivalry aspect.”
The Lady Tigers (10-10, 5-5) are currently battling Northwest and Holmes for two of the four playoff spots, and Ford wants his squad to show a sense of urgency in these important closing games.
“With basketball at this level, you’ve got to have it 100 percent mentally, as well as physically,” said Ford, whose Lady Tigers lost to ICC 77-75 in overtime previously. “Between now and 5 p.m. Thursday, we’ve got to find a way to get that attitude.”
Ford does like the year-long effort from Amber Johnson of Pine Grove, and the consistency of Anna Brooke Page from New Site, with some quality time lately from Erin Strowder from Tennessee. Page leads Northeast with 16.6 ppg, and 6.3 rpg.