Posted Date: 01/11/2018
JONESBORO — Nettleton captured its third straight Northeast Arkansas Invitational Division II girls' championship with an emphatic victory Wednesday.
The Lady Raiders built a double-digit lead after one quarter and never relinquished it while handling conference foe Valley View 64-38 at First National Bank Arena.
Nettleton led 18-6 after the opening quarter and took a 35-17 lead into the half.
A score on a drive by Courtney Crippen put Nettleton up 37-17 early in the third. A putback from Dasia Young extended the Nettleton lead to 45-20 later in the period.
Valley View missed its first six shots of the third period while Nettleton finished the third with a flurry from future Arkansas State guard Jordan Elder. The Nettleton senior hit a floater, drilled a 3, then added a steal and score just before the buzzer to give the Lady Raiders a 53-25 lead heading into the fourth.
Bailey Booker splashed a 3 to begin the fourth as Nettleton's lead grew to 56-25 and brought on a running clock due to the 31-point margin.
Elder led Nettleton (12-1) with 13 points. Mya Love added 11, Booker finished with nine and Young grabbed 12 rebounds. For Valley View (9-4), Macy Jo Moody scored 18 points and Reagan Dodd had 12 rebounds.
Nettleton coach Jason Smith said getting off to a good start was important against a talented Lady Blazer team.
"We talked about how important it was to start fast. With a team like Valley View who has a very talented post player and guards who can knock down shots, the longer you let a team like that hang around, it's a recipe for disaster, so we had to start fast," Smith said. "We had a little lull there in the second, but for the most part I was pleased with our aggressiveness and intensity. Defensively I thought we did a really good job."
The Lady Raiders finished each quarter well, getting a bucket at the buzzer at the end of the first, second and third periods.
Smith said his team always seems to have the time clock in their heads.
"It's impressive the kind of basketball IQ the kids have in that they understand time and score for the most part," he said.
Nettleton's Young and Kalveona Pepper combined to play strong defense against Valley View post Reagan Dodd, who finished with six points and 12 rebounds.
"I could not be more proud of the tournament Kalveona has played and Dasia has had the funk, I don't know what it is, but she has not been 100 percent in almost 10 days now. But she is coming out of it and feeling better," Smith said. "They did an awesome job and Bailey (Booker) did a good job on the help side."
Love set the tone for Nettleton with aggressive play in the opening quarter.
"She's just a junkyard dog. I think if you asked her she would say she played awful, but you look up and see the points and steals and rebounds," Smith said. "She is going to compete every night and I thought Jordan (Elder) as a quarterback these three games was great. It's something the folks up here in the crowd can look forward to the next four years in this same gym."
The NEA victory is the eighth all-time for the Lady Raider program and the eighth overall for Smith.
"It's a privilege to play in it and it's an honor to have so many good teams through the years," Smith said. "It's humbling because I've probably got 50 former players up there watching today, so they get to have a lot of memories of their day, but I've just been blessed with a bunch of kids who work hard."
For the game Nettleton went 23-for-57 from the floor, shooting 40.3 percent and finished with only seven turnovers. Valley View turned the ball over 16 times and hit 10-of-29 attempts from the field, shooting 34.4 percent from the field.
Both teams started slowly on offense as Nettleton hit one of its first five shots while Valley View started the game hitting one of its first four.
A 3-pointer from Booker gave Nettleton an early 5-4 lead. A drive and score from Love pushed the lead to 7-4 with 3:31 left in the first. A layup from Young and another bucket inside from Love increased the Nettleton lead to 13-4 with a little over two minutes to go in the quarter.
Valley View's Moody scored on a drive cutting the Nettleton lead to 15-6 late in the quarter. Elder's 3 at the buzzer sent Nettleton to the second quarter leading 18-6.
In the second, Molly Poe hit one of two free throws to pull the Lady Blazers to within 20-14 with 5:28 to go in the half. Nettleton responded by going on a 15-3 run to end the half.
Love scored on a drive for a 27-17 Nettleton lead, then added a 3-point play pushing the lead to 33-17 with 1:03 left in the half.
Nettleton led 35-17 at the break.
By Cory Clark, Sun Staff Writer