LAFAYETTE — “That’s not Mississippi!”
With less than four minutes to go in Thursday night’s game, Todd Russ walked onto the court and loudly called for a timeout (he actually called for it twice) and promptly expressed his disgust with his team not running the offensive set “Mississippi.”
It wasn’t just the fact that New Iberia Senior High didn’t execute Russ’ called set; the Yellow Jackets head coach was upset that his team didn’t even set the play up.
“We talk about toughness — about being a tough-minded team,” Russ said. “We pride ourselves on being tough and try to be mentally tough. What happened there is that these kids are learning that they need to execute the play even when it is not their play.
“Had we done that in that spot we would have scored on the play,” Russ added. “That is mental toughness and these kids are still learning that right now.”
NISH may be still learning about mental toughness but the team did take a step in that direction with a come-from-behind, 54-47 victory over Washington Marion at the Big Dave Classic tournament held at Northside High School.
NISH (3-2) got off to a sluggish start as the Yellow Jackets were executing sets but the ball just wasn’t falling with everything from jumpers to layups failing to fall through the basket. At the end of the first quarter, NISH trailed Washington Marion 14-6.
“We were running the right plays, good ball movement but we couldn’t cash anything in during that first quarter,” Russ said. “When that happens it takes away your energy on the defensive end and that is what happened.”
NISH slowly began to see shots fall in the second quarter and managed to cut the lead down to a single possession by halftime trailing 27-25.
NISH hit its stride in the third quarter as Ralph Johnson drove the basket and tied the game with a layup. The Yellow Jackets outscored the Indians 14-4 to start the period as both Xavier Smith and Jake Lovette drained 3-pointers.
“We’ve been struggling in the third quarter so far this season,” Russ said. “We did a really good job tonight of executing. Once you see that ball go through the hoop it makes things easier.”
Washington Marion (1-5) managed to cut into NISH’s lead and trailed 40-37 headed to the final quarter. Joshua Barker then opened the fourth by tying the game with a 3-pointer and followed that up with a long jumper to give the Indians a 42-40 lead.
NISH answered as Lovette drained three of four free throws to reclaim the lead and then gave the Yellow Jackets a 48-45 lead with 2:47 to play after hitting a deep 3-pointer.
NISH sealed the win in the final minutes by making four of six free throws while holding Washington Marion to only 10 points in the final period.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Lovette, who had 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Johnson added 14. Barker led the Indians with 11 points.
Russ afterwards said that despite the “Mississippi” snafu he was confident that his young team will find more consistency and more importantly leadership as the season progresses.
“We lost three seniors from last year’s team including our leading scorers and rebounders and captains,” said Russ, whose team will face Peabody tonight and Northwest on Saturday. “We’ve got to figure out who is going to step up in those leadership roles. Right now early on during the season that is a void but we will get there.”