By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – First-year Itawamba Community College men’s head coach Grant Pate got a solid dose of the nail-biting type of games that can be played in Mississippi junior college basketball.
Pate survived, thanks to the guard play of his Indians.
Good help defense against the taller Northeast Tigers aided the Indians, who claimed a 68-64 victory in the North Division opener for both ball clubs.
“To have a young team makes it tough, but our guys responded,” Pate said. “I have to commend our guys for their help defense tonight, and their work on the boards.”
It was close throughout, with veteran Tupelo sophomore Deontaye Ewing scoring most of his game-high 19 points in crucial situations.
There were seven lead changes in the first half, where ICC (5-3, 1-0) was able to claim a 35-34 margin at the break. The Indians overcame a back-and-forth opening to the second half, moving to as much as a 66-57 margin after a Mike Brand from Starkville 3-pointer and a Ewing free throw.
But the Tigers (3-4, 0-1) crawled back, pulling within 66-64 with 36 seconds left after a Kedorian Sullivan tip-in. Northeast did have possession with a chance to tie, but a turnover in the last 20 seconds was key.
“Turnovers,” Northeast head coach David Robbins said. “This was just a hard-fought game.”
Tyler Brunson paced Northeast with 19.
“This is a good win,” Ewing said. “And it’s good we started 1-0 in the division.”
Both teams are back to North Division play Monday, with Northeast hosting Northwest, and ICC at Coahoma. The rematch between these schools will be Jan. 31, at Northeast.
(W) Itawamba 80, Northeast 55: After claiming a one-point lead at the half, the Lady Indians (5-3, 1-0) broke it open with a 14-0 run to open the second half.
Freshman Latoya Collins tallied 17 crucial points when the game was close, with Houston’s Ty-Nita Baker pacing the offense with 21. LaTonya Gadison led Northeast (3-4, 0-1) with 12.