Marshall leads Blytheville to NEA crown

Three Nettleton defenders converge on Blytheville’s Rashaud Marshall during Wednesday’s boys’ Division II championship game in the Northeast Arkansas Invitational tournament. Marshall scored 24 points to lead Blytheville to a 74-60 victory.

JONESBORO — Rashaud Marshall wasn't going to stay quiet all night.

Marshall, Blytheville's 6-foot-9 junior center, scored only three points in the first half as Nettleton took a four-point halftime lead in the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Division II boys' championship game. He dominated the second half, scoring 21 of his 24 points as the Chickasaws pulled away for a 74-60 victory.

Wednesday's fourth quarter especially belonged to Marshall as he scored 14 points, including two three-point plays that stopped Nettleton runs.

"He really got going in the second half. In the first half they did a good job of keeping basically two or three guys on him," Blytheville coach McKenzie Pierce said. "We challenged him at halftime, said, 'Man, look, if you don't score a point for the rest of the game, you can still change this game defensively and with your rebounding.' I thought he stepped up there and once he got some plays, it got him going on the offensive end."

The top-seeded Chickasaws (12-3) led only 60-59 when Marshall scored while drawing the fifth foul on Nettleton's Andre Davis with 2:35 left in the game. Marshall added the free throw and wowed the crowd with a soaring tip-in at the 2:15 mark.

Free throws enabled Blytheville to pull away at the end. Marshall closed the game with a dunk that set the final score.

"He's a really good player obviously. We hadn't seen that type of size and athleticism," Nettleton coach Bubba Deaton said. "I thought we played hard, I thought we got better this week. Blytheville is just a tough handle. They've got good guards. I thought we did a good job on Marshall and we only had a four-point lead at halftime. Then they did a pretty good job of getting it inside on us, but I can't fault our guys' effort."

T.J. Jackson scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter to help the Chickasaws stay in the game in the midst of a scoring spree by Raider star DaVares Whitaker, who finished with 26 points. Shamar Marshall added 12 points, Camron Jones 11 and Travis Anderson eight for Blytheville.

Whitaker came out firing, sinking three 3-pointers while scoring 15 points in the first quarter as third-seeded Nettleton took a 23-15 lead. His reverse layup in the second quarter gave the Raiders a 27-17 lead, but the Chickasaws crept within 34-30 at halftime.

Brandon Anderson, who added 14 points for Nettleton, gave the Raiders (12-3) their last lead at 41-39 with 4:14 remaining in the third quarter. Blytheville scored the next seven points, five coming from Marshall, and led 50-45 at the end of the period.

Blytheville scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, a run capped by Marshall's dunk for a 55-45 lead. The Raiders were able to press their way back into contention, but never drew even.

Pierce said winning the NEA title means a lot, especially with a young team.

"I guess technically we're back-to-back champs since we didn't get to have this deal last year, but obviously this is a very different team than two years ago. Just very proud of our guys," Pierce said. "It's tough to come into this tournament and be a one seed. A lot of times the one seed gets knocked off. Actually this is my fourth time to win this thing and I've never won it out of the one hole, so I'm proud of this young group of guys."


Boys' Division II

Rashaud Marshall, T.J. Jackson and Camron Jones, Blytheville; Andre Davis, Brandon Anderson and DaVares Whitaker, Nettleton; David York, Brookland; Cam Hicks and Isaiah Carlos, Searcy; Spencer Honeycutt and Lukas Kaffka, Westside; Jaron Burrow, Buffalo Island Central; Matt Guffey, Salem; Devin Miles, Trumann; Ty Flippo, Walnut Ridge.

Paul Hoffman Sportsmanship Award: Trumann.