Posted Date: 11/29/2017
The short-handed Raiders swept through the Honda of Jonesboro Invitational at Brookland's new Bearcat Arena with a dazzling offensive display, making 33 of 57 field goals (57.9 percent) with all five starters in double figures en route to a 92-74 victory over 5A/6A Combined Classification District 3 mate Marion in Saturday's championship game.
"Just a lot of confidence," said Nettleton coach Mark McCord, whose Raiders have already surpassed any scoring output from last year's 5A-East championship run. "A lot of guys got reps who haven't had reps at the varsity level, and we're going to be all hands on deck this year. We're going to play a lot of guys."
Even with the Patriots (2-1) keeping up in the first quarter, resulting in a 19-all deadlock at the period's end, the Raiders (3-0) kicked in the afterburners in the second quarter. Starting the quarter with a 12-2 run, they made their first five shots of the second, seven of the first eight and nine of the first 11 to build a 49-23 lead, missing their final two attempts before Detric Reeves hit a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left to bring Marion within 45-36 at halftime.
Nettleton missed its first two shots of the second half but responded by making 17 of 28 the rest of the way (56.7 percent for the half after 16 of 27 in the first half). After building a 66-52 lead by the end of the third, the Raiders stretched it to 70-52 in the first 1:07 of the fourth.
"We were fan-friendly tonight, weren't we?" McCord said. "A little different pace than the other two games we had before (56-52 over Baptist Prep and 58-57 over Springdale Har-Ber). Good teams have to be able to play both ways."
Nettleton then let Marion creep back into it by turning the ball over and making just 5 of 15 fourth-quarter free throws, and the Patriots got as close as 73-63. With it 76-64, the Raiders ignited once again, scoring 13 of the game's next 17 to open an 89-68 lead with around a minute to play.
The Patriots scored six quick points in the final minute by turning over Nettleton's limited reserves in the backcourt, making the final score look a little more respectable.
"Tonight we wanted to slow it down a little bit," McCord said. "If it's there, then take it, but be patient with it. They're going to make you make basketball plays because they're scrappy. They'll trap you, and that team is relentless. They don't ever give up. We had them on the ropes two or three times, and they wouldn't go away."
Nathan Anderson led the Raiders with 22 points, earning the honor of player of the game after knocking down four treys for a Nettleton squad that went 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. Kevin Fulton was named the tournament's most valuable player after his 20-point performance, scoring 15 in the first half.
Nettleton post Marion McFadden proved a mismatch against guard-oriented Marion, recording his first career double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds.
"Marion McFadden had the game of his life," McCord said. "He hit the glass and ended up with 12 rebounds." He had a great stat line, and that's his best game as a Raider."
Although the Patriots hit 30 of 68 (44.1 percent) from the field, they made just 5 of 24 3-point attempts, bothered by the defense of Jay Campbell and Kortez Hamilton. Campbell finished 16 points and a game-high five steals, and Hamilton had 12 points and nine rebounds.
"Kortez Hamilton made some big plays down the stretch," McCord said." Kevin and Jay played their game, and Nate hit some big shots. We had a different player of the game every game, and our scoring was balanced, which I love."
The only player Nettleton had trouble guarding was Reeves, who finished with a game-high 33 points. The sophomore hit all five of Marion's threes.
"Unbelievable range," McCord said. "Bright future for that young man. He's a player."