Nettleton edges Marmaduke 50-45

Marmaduke’s Heidi Robinson shoots over Nettleton’s Akyria James (12) and Keiarra Brown during Tuesday’s Northeast Arkansas Invitational tournament game in Jonesboro. Robinson scored 19 points in her team’s 50-45 loss to Nettleton in the girls’ Division II semifinals.

JONESBORO — The Nettleton Lady Raiders stayed calm during tense moments Tuesday at the Northeast Arkansas Invitational tournament.

Nettleton led by as many as 11 points in the second half, only to see Marmaduke rally within a point in the fourth quarter of their Division II girls’ semifinal game. The second-seeded Lady Raiders made four free throws in the final 61 seconds and came up with a couple of defensive stops to seal a 50-45 victory over the third-seeded Lady Greyhounds.

Senior guard Briley Pena scored 28 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, as Nettleton (12-2) advanced to play top-seeded Melbourne in the championship game. Melbourne edged Greene County Tech 54-51 in Tuesday’s second semifinal game.

Marmaduke (18-1) scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and had a couple of possessions with a chance to tie its game with Nettleton, but never quite drew even.

“Oddly enough, defensively we were good at times, but in the fourth quarter we weren’t very good,” Nettleton coach Jason Smith said. “Our composure, we had some seniors step up who weren’t having great days. D’Maria Daniels and Briley Pena weren’t having their best days offensively with foul trouble and missing shots, but they calmed us down and took care of the basketball. I think poise kind of won that game and that’s something we can put in our pocket and remember later on down the line.”

Pena had an off day from the perimeter, but was 16-of-17 at the free throw line. Diamond Kimble finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, including a defensive board in the final minute with Nettleton leading 48-45.

Heidi Robinson scored 19 points to lead Marmaduke, while Baylie Joiner added 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Lady Greyhounds.

Marmaduke coach Rick Smith said his team’s inexperience in some positions showed down the stretch.

“I thought we played pretty well early. We had a little lull where they got about a 9-0 run in the second quarter and that may have cost us the game,” he said. “I thought we made a run there at the end and we had some sophomore mistakes. We’ve got three sophomores out there.”

Tuesday’s point total was a season low for Marmaduke. Nettleton has held 12 opponents under 50 points and Jason Smith credited Akyria James with a solid game on the defensive end. James also had six assists.

“I thought Akyria James was awesome all day long. Every game we ask her to guard these kids and they’re going to get baskets, but she made it tough,” he said. “I felt that she made Heidi earn everything that she got and I thought our perimeter defense on their shooters was really good.”

Nettleton went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter and led 25-18 at halftime. The Lady Raiders led 30-19 and 32-22 early in the second half behind Pena, who scored eight points in the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Down 35-27, Marmaduke scored the first five points of the fourth quarter and missed a 3 that would have tied the game. The teams traded runs before Pena made two free throws with 4:50 remaining to give the Lady Raiders a 41-35 lead.

Joiner made two free throws and Bean Hoffman hit a 3 to pull Marmaduke within 41-40 with 3:58 remaining. Pena made two free throws after a timeout and the Lady Greyhounds lost a point when a lane violation wiped out a free throw by Robinson at the 2:55 mark.

Pena sank a 3 with 2:40 remaining for a 46-41 Nettleton lead, only to see Joiner counter on the other end. Two free throws by Hoffman pulled Marmaduke within 47-45 with 1:01 remaining.

Daniels made one of two free throws with 37 seconds left to give Nettleton a three-point lead. Joiner was unable to score in the lane, with Kimble grabbing the rebound. Pena made two more free throws to set the final score with 15.9 seconds to play.

“I have a rule that we don’t want to have any garbage attitudes after a win,” Jason Smith said. “Even though we may not have played our best, we’re playing for a trophy, so I’m really happy.”

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