PARAGOULD — After a slow start offensively, the Monticello Lady Billies scorched the nets in the second half and knocked the Nettleton Lady Raiders out of the 5A state tournament with a 68-45 victory.

PARAGOULD — After a slow start offensively, the Monticello Lady Billies scorched the nets in the second half and knocked the Nettleton Lady Raiders out of the 5A state tournament with a 68-45 victory.

Nettleton got off to a great start, taking a 15-8 lead after the first quarter and a 22-20 advantage at halftime.

In the third quarter, though, Nettleton’s shots wouldn’t fall and Monticello cleared the boards and got behind the Lady Raiders’ defense time and time again.

The Lady Billies (26-2) went on a 19-3 run — scoring layup after layup— to take a 49-33 lead with 6:32 left in the fourth quarter.

Nettleton struggled from the field, going 14 for 54 and only hitting 25 percent of its shots. The Lady Raiders were 3-for-14 from the three-point line and 14-for-21 from the free-throw line.

Monticello hit 9 of 24 shots in the first half before going 21 for 25 in the second. For the game the Lady Billies shot 62 percent from the floor.

Senior Jennifer Towne wrapped up an outstanding career for Nettleton (20-9) with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, nine of which were on the offensive end of the court.

Fellow senior Alexis Sharp added nine points for Nettleton. Shayna McMillin returned to the court after missing two weeks with concussion symptoms and finished with eight points and eight rebounds, and Lexi Beliew contributed eight points.

Chelsey Rhodes scored 24 points for Monticello, while Shanekqua Bolden had 12, Karissa Campbell had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Marquia Goffin and Deanne Martin each scored 10 points.

Nettleton coach Jason Smith said when Monticello got the lead, his team never was able to recover.

“Once Monticello got the lead, they started to get some runouts and we were missing those shots that we were making in the first half, and they were rebounding and outletting quick and leaking out,” Smith said.

In the opening half, Smith said he loved the defensive effort his team gave.

“We really executed what we tried to do in the first half defensively and did a really good job of neutralizing (Rhodes) and trying to get the ball out of her hands. I was really pleased with the first half defensively,” he said. “We were also able to hit some shots that kept them off balance and kind of gave us a cushion.”