NWF State heads into break 11-2 after 75-49 win

NWF State heads into break 11-2 after 75-49 win

NICEVILLE - Jade Lewis broke a girl's ankle before buring the shot. Mercedez Claybrone had the hustle play of NWF State's first half, turning a Raiders airball going out of bounds into an assist to Amber Thompson.

Ashley Lee proceeded to set up Nasheema Oliver twice and Juanisha Young with over-the-top feeds in the post.

Five first-quarter possessions. Five buckets. Four straight defensive stops on the other end to build a 17-6 lead. This was the Raiders at their finest.

This was the nation's 14th-ranked program, which heads into the break 11-2 after Thursday's 75-49 win over Florida State College Jacksonville.

And Thursday proved to be the perfect exclamation point to the first half.

A lot of that had to do with the addition of Berniezha Tidwell, who was ineligible for the first semester until McCorvey was notified an hour before the game that the 5-foot-7 guard was cleared to play. She proceeded to drop 14 points, eight of which were the result of takes and the rest coming on a pair of treys.

"She's definitely a difference-maker," said NWF State head coach Tamela McCorvey, whose team led 17-14 after the first quarter, 34-24 at halftime and 56-37 headed into the fourth quarter. "I told you she had that toughness so it's good to have her back. We didn't know she was eligible until an hour before the game and she was all smiles when I told her."

Nasheema Oliver, who a day earlier was 0-for-8 in a scoreless effort, was a perfect 7-for-7 and scored 14 points. She was the face of a post game that outscored the Blue Wave 46-22 in the paint.

"She was a bit more focused in," McCorvey said. "She's a big difference-maker when she's locked in."

Jasmine Rhodes added 14 points on a 6-for-8 shooting effort, Jade Lewis hit four 3s as part of a 14-point performance and Mercedez Claybrone grabbed a team-high six boards and scored seven points as part of the Raiders' hot shooting night. NWF State entered shooting 40 percent a game but shot a season-best 53 percent from the floor.

That included scoring every which way - transition, feeds over the top, isolation, 3-pointers (7 for 17). This was an offense McCorvey can endorse.

Defensively, the Raiders continued the same pressure that is allowing just 53 points per game. They held the Blue Wave to under 33 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers.

That defensive toughness will be leaned on come conference play, which starts Jan. 11 at home against Pensacola State. They'll have a final warmup for conference play on Dec. 29 and 30 when they face Northeast Mississippi and the Blue Wave again.

"We all need the break," McCorvey said. "We need to rest up and we need to have a different mindset because that Panhandle Conference is a different animal. We're winning, but that doesn't say much when you're about to go into a conference where everyone's in the top 25.

"It's going to be tough. We got to be tough."