FULTON – A little swagger can do wonders for a young team.
After losing two straight games to ranked opponents, the Itawamba Community College Lady Indians were in desperate need of a boost of confidence with No. 26 Northwest Shoals visiting on Thursday night.
That’s exactly what they got from a pair of freshmen.
Coming off the bench, Noel Prestage (Fulton) and Ebony Williams (Calhoun City) combined for 18 first-half points, digging ICC out of an early 8-point hole and leading the charge to a convincing 84-69 victory over the previously-unbeaten Lady Patriots.
“Our second unit really gave us a shot in the arm when we needed it,” said ICC head coach Nanci Gray, who watched her team improve to 2-2 on the season. “We’ve gotten beat by a couple of good teams early on, so it was important for us to come out and take control of this one tonight. Give our kids credit, they battled from the start.”
While Prestage and Tupelo sophomore Natasha Berry led ICC with 17 each, it was the freshman sharpshooter from Fulton who kick-started the Lady Indians’ rally.
With ICC down 18-10 midway through the first half, Prestage connected on a trio of three-pointers in the next five minutes, spearheading a 19-3 run that helped the Lady Indians take control, which they would not reliniquish.
“We knew that (Prestage) could shoot lights out, but we didn’t know how quickly she would adjust to this league,” Gray said. “She certainly answered those questions tonight.”
After ICC claimed a 50-36 halftime lead, Berry scored 12 of her 17 after the break and harassed Northwest Shoals point guard China McDaniel endlessly, ending the night with seven steals. ICC forced 22 Shoals turnovers on the night.
Berry “had to guard their best scorer tonight, and she did an outstanding job,” Gray said. “Tonight was a complete team effort on both ends of the court. We really needed this game to show us our potential, and I think we can build on this.”
Pontotoc sophomore Lori Crudup added 14 for the Lady Indians, and Williams finished with 11.
Post player Jasmine Horne scored 16 to pace Northwest Shoals (4-1).
For Gray, the maturation of her young team, which starts three freshmen, is starting to show.
“We’ve played strong competition so far, but we’re really growing as a team,” Gray said. “I thought that showed tonight. We got down early, didn’t panic, and we made the plays we had to make to earn a big win.”
Indians’ men cruise
ICC’s Indians completed the sweep in resounding fashion, opening the game on a 10-0 run and never looking back on the way to an 76-58 win.
Clinton native Vincenzo Nelson led ICC with 21 points, while Sam Ford added 12 and Shannon’s Xavier Ruth chipped in 10.
ICC led 36-22 at the half and outscored Northwest Shoals 20-4 in the first seven minutes of the second half. The Indians led by as many as 36 after the break.
Northwest Shoals guard Jermaine Hooks scored 22 to lead all scorers.
With the win, the Indians improved to 3-1 on the season.
Brandon Walker/NEMS Daily Journal