The Nettleton Tigers are prepping for a busy week, hoping to play three games in a matter of five days and stay in the playoff picture.
“You hate to have a week off going into the playoffs, but we have talked some and it’s about trusting that we were playing really well before this,” Nettleton coach Grant Gardner. “Hopefully we can get back in the gym soon and get ready for the playoffs. Next week, if you’re lucky enough to advance, there’s not a whole lot of scouting. It’s all about getting your team ready.”
Nettleton comes off two wins at the division tournament against Kossuth and Amory and a much better showing against Booneville in the division championship game.
“I think we were playing really well. I liked how we were playing defensively,” Gardner said. “We didn’t shoot the ball great in that last game because I think we had guys with some tired legs. We have some guys who have been banged up since football like Anterion (Venson) and Zavian (Dilworth). This week, we have let them get a little rest and heal up a little bit. Getting back to practice will be like going to square one.”
The Tigers are seeing contributions from both their bench and their starters and in their upperclassmen and their younger groups.
Elevating his game
Gardner pointed out Venson, a freshman, as being one of the players who turned up his game in the division tournament.
“He’s playing really well right now. We made some changes and moved him to a different spot,” he said. “He’s young, but he adapted well and the other guys are fitting in around him. He’s scoring more and doing a good job defensively. Keandre (Johnson) is playing his role well, and Jamorion (Ball) is shooting it well. He still has to do other things when he’s not shooting it well. But we’ve played 24 games, so now everybody pretty much has a season under their belts.”
Gardner called their first round matchup with Aberdeen facing not a typical No. 3 seed.
“They should have been the No. 2 seed, and when you see them, they scare you,” he said. “They’re big, athletic and scary looking, and when they play well, they can take away a lot of what we like to do. They are more athletic than us, so we have to out execute them. The week off comes at a bad time because we were executing great. Hopefully the week off will affect them too because they are not the Belmonts and Kossuths that we have been playing. They’re a different animal.”
With Aberdeen being a familiar foe, Gardner said he looks forward to playing them in the first round because he feels like his team will be more energized for a rivalry game.
The two teams will be back in the same division next season.
“We played really well against Booneville and had a shot to win, and one thing you worry about when you lose a game like that is getting down,” he said. “But our guys won’t be down against Aberdeen. They will be excited, and you know they will be up for them. If they put us out, we will have to live with it for a year because we play them most summers and run into those kids all the time. We have a lot of mutual respect between the two teams, and you never want to lose to your buddies.”