By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – David Robbins and Ricky Ford are halfway to a good Christmas.
With early-season personnel juggling out of the way, both Northeast Mississippi Community College programs got down to business Thursday in North Division action, sweeping Northwest. The Lady Tigers held strong against the Lady Rangers for an 80-70 win, the Tigers hung on for an 81-80 victory.
“This team is just trying to mature,” said Robbins of his Tigers (3-5, 1-0). “We’ve got the all the pieces back together now, and we have a chance for a good season.”
With some timely 3-point shooting by Nick Tate of Holly Springs, Alcorn Central’s Cody Garrett, and Jermaine Holliman, Northeast moved to the early lead. A basket and free throws by Tyler Pritchard of Iuka to close the first half helped the Tigers to a 46-29 halftime lead.
Northeast continued its strong play to open the second half, with four baskets by Robert Wade pushing the advantage to 55-35 with 16 minutes, 28 seconds to play. Then Rangers (5-4, 0-1) fought back.
Northwest kept chipping away until a basket by Akeem Anderson pulled Northwest within 72-69. A pair of key baskets by Wade gave the Tigers temporary breathing room, but the Rangers hung tough, and a Darius Woods layup with 28 seconds remaining pulled the Rangers within 79-77.
But Garrett was able to basically ice the contest with a pair or free throws with 16 seconds left.
“We got sloppy at times in the second half,” Robbins said. “I knew at the half Northwest would not go away.”
Wade, from Nashville, paced the Northeast offense with 21 points. Anderson led Northwest with 17.
Lady Tigers also survive
The Lady Tigers (3-4, 1-0) had a bit more of a test in the first half, but were able to claim a 34-29 lead at the break. The Lady Tigers then extended their margin to as much as 56-34 early in the second half before the Lady Rangers made the contest interesting.
“We played pretty good defense in the first half, limiting their 3-pointers,” said Ford, who only has two sophomores on his roster. “Then starting the second half, our defensive intensity was good, and were able to attack from it.”
The Lady Rangers (3-6, 0-1) were able to pick up their intensity, and a pair of baskets by Sandricka Bowen of Holly Springs cut the Northeast lead to 75-68 with 59 seconds remaining. Then a pair of free throws by Alex Hill halted the Northwest comeback, and more free shots by Tiffany Martin and Anna Brooke Page from Belmont iced the victory.
“A win is a win, but we’ve got to be mentally tougher,” Ford said. “Especially at the end of a game. That’s were we have to execute, and close them out.”
Page totaled 22 to lead the Lady Tigers, with Pine Grove’s Amber Johnson adding 17. Bowen led Northwest with 13.
Northeast has one more North Division date before Christmas, traveling to Holmes on Monday.