By Gene Phelps
FULTON – A veteran player helped make a rookie coach a winner Wednesday at Itawamba.
Shameika Boyce, a sophomore guard from Memphis, scored eight points in the final two minutes to give first-year Lady Indians coach Nanci Gray a victory, 72-67, over Bevill (Ala.) State-Fayette in her community college coaching debut.
Boyce, who led ICC with 19 points, sank a 3-point jumper from the left wing with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining to give her team a 64-60 lead.
On her next trip down, Boyce drove the baseline for a layup to answer a Bevill State basket and give the Indians a 66-62 advantage.
“My team needed me. As a sophomore, I had to step up,” the 5-foot-8 Boyce said.
Gray, who coached nine seasons at Tupelo High School before replacing Carrie Ball-Williamson, expected Boyce to come through at clutch time.
“She’s the most experienced kid on the floor,” Gray said. “That showed late in the game. She did a great job for us.”
ICC survived a poor shooting night at the free-throw line, hitting just 23-of-45 for 51 percent. However, down the stretch, the Lady Indians made 6-of-8, including three by Boyce, to seal the win.
“It was the first game and everybody was tense,” Gray said. “We missed a lot of layups. I think I counted five in the paint. You’ve got to hit those and free throws to be successful.”
Boyce hit back-to-back jumpers, one a 3-pointer from the baseline, to give the Lady Indians a 25-20 lead with under 6 minutes remaining in the first half.
Bevill State scored only three field goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half, but remained close at halftime, 30-24, because of poor free throw shooting by the Indians.
ICC connected on just 7-of-19 from the foul line in the first half.
The Lady Indians had five players score in double figures. Freshman guard Bronson Rodgers scored 12 and had five assists while Keisha Shumpert and Cathleen Hudson scored 11 apiece. Two of Gray’s former Tupelo players, Jasmine Larry and Tacarra Harris, had nine rebounds each. Larry added 10 points.
Re’Nate Lopez led Bevill State with 17 points and LaKeidra Harvey added 11.