NETTLETON – The Nettleton Lady Tigers found themselves with a cold shooting night against Vardaman on Thursday but made up for it with defense and a strong second-half push, getting the 51-33 win to move to 3-0 on the early season.
“From the first day, I told them we won’t win with shooting, and we will win with defense,” Nettleton coach Brent Kuhl said. “When they picked up the defensive pressure, that’s when we pulled away.”
The Lady Tigers trailed 7-2 early but bounced back with a Madison Miller three-pointer. Tamiya Martin and Miller had back-to-back baskets for their first lead, and Zion Seals’ free throws helped stretch that to four until a pair from the line for Vardaman made it 13-11 at the end of the quarter.
Miller had six of the ten points in the second, and Seals added the other four to go into the half with a 23-18 advantage.
Miller hit a layup to open the third, and Seals completed a pair of three-point plays to help the Lady Tigers open up a double-digit lead. Seals’ steal and bucket made it 33-20 midway through the quarter, and Miller sank a three to make it 39-26 going into the fourth.
The Lady Rams only got as close as 12 points with Miller and Seals continuing to help Nettleton push its lead, and Sharman Mosely added a late layup to put the game out of reach.
Miller paced all scorers with her 25 points, and Seals finished with 18 points off the bench.
“That’s the best I have seen Zion play so far this year. She really stepped up and came to play,” Kuhl said. “She was athletic, got into those gaps and attacked. Madison is such a good player. She has a good feel for the game, shoots the ball well and our philosophy is to get her involved early and keep her involved throughout the game. She’s so good at attacking the rim, being physical and she rebounds. She’s just an all-around great player with her leadership on the floor.”
(B) Nettleton 80, Vardaman 33
The Tigers also got off to a slow start but found their groove over the final two-plus quarters on their way to a blowout win.
“We started out a little bit lethargic, and maybe we were a little bit tired from Tuesday with a long trip and getting back late,” Nettleton coach Grant Gardner said. “Vardaman played really hard, and they got out-athleted pretty quick. They hung in there, but early the shots weren’t falling for us and we kept playing. It was an ugly shooting night, but we made up for it with rebounding and creating turnovers. If we can create turnovers, we can compete with folks. If we don’t, then we will be in trouble some nights.”
Vardaman scored the first points of the night but Nettleton quickly responded with an 8-0 run with contributions from Jamarion Ball, Jacorien Moore and Anterion Venson. Moore and Venson’s back-to-back buckets to close the first gave the Tigers a 20-12 advantage.
Ball and Hunter Kuhl hit three of four from the line to start the second to go up 23-13, and Zavian Dilworth scored eight points in the second to stretch the lead out further as Nettleton led 42-26 at the half.
Nettleton came out of the half on a 21-0 run to start to secure the blowout with Ball, Dilworth, Venson, Kuhl and Moore all contributing in the run. The Tigers emptied the bench late in the third and in the fourth with Lamarion Lenoir, Jaylon Betts, Jay Hawkins and Daniel Smiechewicz all getting on the scorebook.
Dilworth led the way with 18 points, followed by 17 each from Ball and Moore.