Mustangs start fast, win big to cap regular season
JONESBORO — As a coach, sometimes, it’s just best to get out of the way.
That’s exactly what Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton did Thursday night in the final regular season game at Nettleton.
Having already clinched the outright conference title on Tuesday as well as the top seed from the 5A-East into the Class 5A state tournament, Lofton’s pregame speech was short and to the point.
“It was simple, really,” Lofton said. “I told them it was up to them. They have a chance to finish 13-1, to become my third Mustang team to do that or they can finish 12-2.”
Lofton’s 2006-07 and 2008-09 Mustangs teams both finished 13-1 in the conference.
Apparently Lofton’s Mustangs wanted the first option as they opened a 13-0 lead before the Raiders, who had already clinched the No. 4 seed into the state tournament, put up its first points.
“Dude, from that point on, they kicked it into overdrive,” Lofton said. “And I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.”
By the half, the Mustangs led 38-21 and the rout was firmly in place.
Four Mustang players reached double figures (18-8, 13-1) led by Mekiyel Harris’ 16 points. Martin Clanton added 14 while Henry Lee had 12, and Jordan Chatters contributed 10. Sophomore center Trey Thompson finished with two points.
When Forrest City’s lead reached 55-28 in the third, Lofton pulled his starters in favor of the reserves, playing “everyone and then some” Lofton added.
“Trey just kind of sat back and let the other guys get theirs,” Lofton said. “It wasn’t because he couldn’t score, he is just that kind of player. He knew he really didn’t need to.”
Forrest City will face Monticello (16-11), the fourth seed from the 5A-Southeast in a first-round state tournament game on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 8:30 p.m., at Greene County Tech. A win over Monticello will bring the Mustangs back for a second-round game on Friday, March 2, at 8:30 p.m.
The Mustangs will be trying to win a first-round state tournament game for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Nettleton’s E.J. Whitaker led with 14 points while Zack Rodgers and De’Israel Gordon added seven points each.
Nettleton is returning to the state tournament after a two-year absence, and will face Sylvan Hills on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
Nettleton’s Lady Raiders jumped out to a big lead and quickly put the game away early en route to a 72-45 win in the girls’ game.
Nettleton will be the No. 4 seed from the 5A-East in next week’s Class 5A state tournament at Greene County Tech.
Nettleton finished the season winning five out of its last six games.
Against Forrest City on Thursday, the Lady Raiders jumped to a 13-5 lead to start the game and used solid play from senior point guard Alexis Sharp to extend its lead.
The first quarter ended with the Lady Raiders up 20-9, and Nettleton managed to increase its lead to 38-20 at halftime. The Lady Raiders pushed the lead to 60-35 to start the fourth period.
Nettleton invoked the “mercy rule” by reaching a 30-point lead at 65-35 with 6:58 left in the game.
Jennifer Towne led Nettleton (20-8, 9-5 5A-East) with 15 points and eight rebounds. Sharp added 12 points, Takara Coleman had 11,
Kionna Patillo scored 15 points for Forrest City (9-17, 6-8).
The Lady Mustangs’ nine season victories is the most for the team since the 2007-08 season when that Lady Mustang team finished 12-13 overall.
It was the final game for Forrest City Lady Mustang seniors Aneshia Chism, Kim Jones, Keyma Thompson, Patillo and Marina Ford.
While the Lady Mustangs turn their attention to off-season in preparation for the 2012-13 season, Nettleton will turn its attention to the 5A state tournament, where the Lady Raiders play Monticello Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 1 p.m.