Posted Date: 02/23/2018
BATESVILLE — The Nettleton Lady Raiders haven't played the Batesville Lady Pioneers in their gym in more than two years, and Nettleton was reminded of how tough it is to play there.
Behind Jordan Elder's 21 points, the Lady Raiders reversed a six-point deficit in the opening moments of the final quarter with a 13-0 run, coming back for a 56-52 victory over the Lady Pioneers during the 5A-East semifinals Thursday.
"It's one of the best home-court advantages in the state," Nettleton coach Jason Smith said. "The last time we were over here, back when we were in the league together, they beat us here by 10, and I think we beat them at our place by 10. This gym and their fans, I would say, are at least a 10-point advantage, but my gosh, those kids played well. Batesville is a good team."
Nettleton (26-2), down 28-25 at halftime after getting outscored 12-6 in the second quarter, briefly took a 29-28 lead before Batesville (20-7) countered with an 8-0 run. The Lady Pioneers got two free throws from Taylor Griffin to make it 39-33 nine seconds into the fourth, but they didn't score again until 2:15 left in the game, a drought of 5:36 that allowed the Lady Raiders to put together the decisive run.
Nettleton's defense was led by Dasia Young and Kalveona Pepper combining for seven blocked shots. Batesville shot just 18-of-48 (37.5 percent) from the field, that defensive effort leading to the 13-point swing in the fourth.
"There were so many times where we could've quit tonight, and they didn't," Smith said. "That's what we talked about in the locker room, that special teams find a way. We had some unsung heroes, and then we were able to hit some big shots and then knock down free throws down the stretch."
Batesville kept trying to fight back into it, but after the Lady Raiders missed all five of their free-throw attempts through the first three quarters, they hit 11-of-14 in the fourth.
Elder made both of hers to cap a 10-point final quarter. She had eight during the big run, including a pair of 3-pointers to give her four for the game.
"Those are some of the biggest shots she's hit in her Nettleton career," Smith said. "Hands in her face, drawing a lot of attention, and she knocked them down. There were a couple of them where even a couple of us were holding our breath, but when you have a special player, you have to trust them."
Mya Love added 14 points for the Lady Raiders, Bailey Booker finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman Izzy Higginbottom led the Lady Pioneers with 20 points, Griffin adding 15. Nettleton allowed a double-digit scorer in a 5A-East district game for the first time in five games.
Nettleton advances to face Paragould for the championship at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Jarquavious Cain had 30 points and a career-high 21 rebounds, leading Nettleton to a 69-52 victory over Wynne.
"That's a great night," said Nettleton coach Mark McCord, whose Raiders avenged a loss at Wynne a little more than a week ago. "He came to play, obviously. All of them came to play."
Cain had a double-double within the first 10 minutes of the game, 9:50 to be exact. He had 14 points and 13 rebounds, his previous career best, by halftime, staking the Raiders (21-7) to a 34-23 lead.
Wynne (10-18) hit four of its first five shots of the second half, including a pair from 3-point range, to pull within 37-33. But with Cain and Kevin Fulton scoring 11 of his 15 in the second half, the Raiders bridged the final two quarters with a 17-2 run to make it 59-40 before an 8-0 run made it 69-47 with 1:38 left.
"They've responded most of the time all year," said McCord, whose team shot 50 percent from the field in the second half. "We went zone there for a little bit because we're having a hard time keeping (Kameron Clark and Devon Light) in front of us, and they got to the paint too much. Then they proceed to hit two or three from about 25 feet out. So we went back to man and locked in and gave good help."
Kortez Hamilton added 11 points for Nettleton. Light was Wynne's lone double-digit scorer with 12.