NETTLETON – Hamilton overcame a fourth-quarter charge from Nettleton, which saw the Lady Tigers down by just four at two different points in the fourth, and made key free throws late to seal a 46-40 win on Thursday.
The win gives the Lady Lions a 7-1 record, already more wins than they have had in the past few seasons total.
Missed free throws through the first three quarters of the game and another big game from sophomore Jabria Pounds, who was in double digits again with 18 points, allowed Nettleton to stay close. Hamilton had 11 missed free throws in the first half alone.
“You have to make those free throws. They’re crucial, and they’re free for a reason,” Hamilton coach Sue Verner said. “I think our conditioning played a part in the missed free throws in the first half, and we kind of got a second wind in the second half and started knocking down some free throws.”
Hamilton started out the game on a quick 10-3 run, with Mary Willis knocking down a pair of two-point shots and Aaliyah Verner hitting a three-pointer. A responding three-pointer from Nettleton’s Jayla Jones and a steal and bucket from Corian Whitfield helped the Lady Tigers get back in it, down just 13-10 at the end of the quarter.
Pounds hit a two-point shot to open the second quarter to bring Nettleton within one, the smallest lead of the game, but Hamilton would outscore them 14-5 for the rest of the quarter for a 27-18 halftime lead.
Hamilton opened up a 16-point lead to open the third. Myiah Dobbs hit a pair of free throws, and Verner added a two-point bucket while Christy Willis got open for a three-pointer. Nettleton chipped away at the Lady Lions’ lead to close the quarter with three straight buckets from Jones, Pounds and Jherica Word.
Free throws were key for sealing the win for Hamilton in the fourth as the Lady Lions made 7 of their 11 attempts, including a pair each from Christy Willis and Mary Willis to put the game out of reach at the end.
Mary Willis led the way scoring for Hamilton with 13 points, while Verner finished with 10 points. Pounds and Jones were both in double digits for Nettleton with 18 and 10 points respectively.
Verner said she hoped the long break from Thanksgiving hadn’t hurt her team, which lost its first game against New Hope on Tuesday.
“I was worried about the layoff, and we have another one coming up now, but we’ll be working hard until then in practice,” Verner said.
(B) Nettleton 71, Hamilton 57
Hamilton kept it close in the first quarter, but solid defense, which forced 19 Lions turnovers, and scoring from 13 different Nettleton players gave them a dominating win.
“We tried to learn from our previous games with a lot of turnovers, and they didn’t put a lot of pressure on us so we didn’t have a lot of turnovers tonight,” Nettleton coach Derrick Sharp said. “Just the way everyone else wants to play like Baldwyn and Booneville, that’s how we want to play too. I’m trying to get these guys to really come out, get after people and force turnovers so we can use our athleticism as well.”
Nettleton held just a 20-11 lead coming out of the first with Hamilton’s Ben Seely knocking down three shots in the first and two more early in the second before Nettleton took control.
The Tigers held a double-digit lead at 44-23 going into the half and led by as many as 24 in the third quarter.
Freshman Chris Long led the way for Nettleton with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Demetrius Thomas and Jeremy Cook were also in double digits with 15 and 11 points respectively.
“I think we played with a lot more intensity tonight,” Sharp said. “Even the game against Booneville where we got beat, I think we played with a lot of energy and intensity, so I think we’re coming along. I think we’re growing, and I think we’re seeing what it takes to compete in 3A basketball.”