Posted Date: 02/26/2018
By Sean Saunders, Sun Staff Writer
BATESVILLE — For the third time in four games, the Nettleton Lady Raiders rallied from a double-digit deficit in the first half, taking home some more hardware.
The Lady Raiders overcame an 11-point deficit by outscoring Paragould by 19 in the second half, coming back for a 56-45 victory in the 5A-East championship game Saturday.
"I think it just shows their toughness," said Nettleton coach Jason Smith, capturing his third consecutive 5A-East crown. "That's the way to describe our team, that we have a lot of grit and toughness. It also shows that their coach is an idiot because we're not getting off to that fast start offensively. We've got to work on that, but it just shows how tough our kids are."
The Lady Rams (17-13) built a 22-11 lead with a 12-2 run, leading 17-11 at the end of the first quarter. They matched the 11-point margin at 24-13 before Nettleton cut the deficit to 27-24 by halftime.
The Lady Raiders (27-2) roared back to take a 48-40 lead by the end of the third, shooting 9 of 14 (64.3 percent) from the field. The latter stages of the surge were fueled by Paragould coach Jay Cook drawing a technical foul.
The 24-point third was capped by Dasia Young scoring Nettleton's final seven points, including a 3-pointer to beat the horn. Young, against Paragould's starting lineup of three 6-footers, finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
"She had that twinkle in her eye, that you weren't going to beat Dasia today," said Smith, who has seen Young block eight shots over the last two games. "She has the ability. She's so unselfish a lot of the time offensively, but tonight, it was one of those deals where there was nobody going to stop her regardless of how big they are."
Nettleton took its biggest lead at 50-40 on a Mya Love runner with 6:42 left in the game, but the Lady Raiders didn't make another field goal the rest of the game. They experienced a scoring drought of 5 minutes, 49 seconds, but a Paragould side shooting only 14 of 43 from the field (32.6 percent) could only get as close as 50-45 before going scoreless over the final 3:24.
The Lady Raiders salted away the title by hitting all six of their free-throw attempts over the final minute. After going just 1 of 5 on free throws in the first half, they were 10 of 12 in the second.
And despite the final field-goal drought, Nettleton still managed to shoot 50 percent from the field in both halves, 11 of 22 in the first and 10 of 20 in the second.
"We weren't necessarily putting it in the icebox, but it kind of worked because they allowed us to stay out front," Smith said. "It's one of those tricky deals where you're up 10 and you don't know when you want them to come out and foul you. We wanted to try to get the best shots we could, but at the same time, we were able to execute against pressure and against size and thankfully, we were able to knock down free throws there at the end."
Love overcame several bumps and bruises to finish with 17 points. Jordan Elder came back from a twisted ankle in the middle of the second quarter to finish with 11 points and six assists.
"Mya sprains an ankle, and yesterday, she jams her thumb, and she just keeps battling," Smith said. "Mya and Jordan showed tremendous attitude and the will of how guard is supposed to be played. They refused to lose tonight."
Zoey Beasley was Paragould's lone double-digit scorer with 14 points. Alex Brengard added nine points.
Nettleton carries the 5A-East's top state seed for the second straight year, taking on Sylvan Hills at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Maumelle. Paragould faces Little Rock Parkview at 7 p.m. Wednesday.