By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
CLINTON – ICC missed a layup with one second remaining in Wednesday’s 68-66 loss to Southern-Shreveport in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament semifinals.
That, however, wasn’t the deciding play in Indians coach Marty Cooper’s eyes.
He thought a sequence of events in the final minute of the first half was even more crucial in ICC’s eventual loss.
The Indians (14-12), who trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, pulled to within one, 30-29, on a jumper by Danardo Watkins.
Southern (26-4) answered with a layup by Oliver Siewe and a steal and dunk by Corey Blake at the buzzer to take a 35-30 halftime lead. Blake then hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and push the Jaguars’ advantage to 38-30.
“We caught up toward the end of the first half, then we let them make a shot … then we throw the ball away and they come down and make a dunk,” Cooper said. “We’re down by five at half and it could have been a 1-point game.
“We went from a 1-point game to down by eight on the first possession of the second half. That was the key to the game.”
ICC, which entered the regional after Mississippi Delta was disqualified from the state tournament last week for using an ineligible player, was looking to play in its fourth Region 23 final in five seasons.
“The kids played hard,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort; it was a lack of putting the ball in the hole.”
In the final seconds of the game, the Indians wanted the ball in the hands of guard Melvin Morgan, who led the team with 22 points.
He drove the baseline, ran into a host of Southern defenders and passed to teammate Sam Ford.
Ford missed an awkward attempt in traffic and Tydrick King rebounded to seal the win for Southern.
“I thought they might try to shoot a 3,” King said. “I’m glad they went for a 2 and missed it. I’m also glad I got the rebound.”
King finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds while Blake led the Louisiana team in scoring with 20 points.
For ICC, Akeem Caddell had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Wendell Williams added 17 points.
Southern plays East Mississippi, an 89-80 winner against Pearl River, in the final.