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Kemper, Choctaw split

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
PHILADELPHIA Winter has arrived.
While the temperature was dropping outside the gymnasium at Choctaw Central High School Tuesday night, the Warriors and visiting Kemper County Wildcats were engaged in a contest inside which definitely didn't have the feel of an early-season game.
In a non-division matchup of Division 5-3A rivals, Kemper County overcame an early 15-point deficit to send the game into overtime then the Wildcats used a jumper from Kendrick Gale with three seconds remaining to beat Choctaw Central 62-61.
The host Lady Warriors won the girls' contest going away, 84-38.
Kemper County returns to action Friday when the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats host Heidelberg, while Choctaw Central goes to Hinds A.H.S. the same night.
Kemper County boys 62, Choctaw Central 61: Last year, turnovers plagued the Wildcats all season long. And with two guards sitting out Tuesday's game, things didn't exactly get off to a good start for Kemper.
Charles Jackson's squad turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter, including seven in a three-minute stretch that saw Walter Wilson's Choctaw Central squad run off 16 unanswered points.
The Warriors led by as many as 15 before settling for a 23-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Wildcats were still down by a dozen at halftime, as Choctaw Central rode six three-pointers from five different players to a 37-25 advantage.
Kemper began to take control in the third period with its height advantage, getting putbacks from Gary Griffin and Derrick Boyd that prompted a timeout by CCHS coach Walter Wilson.
But Kemper didn't stop there. The Wildcats got three straight baskets from Kenny Boyd during a 15-5 run that pulled them within 45-42 heading into the final period.
There, Deon Lewis became the sixth Warrior of the night to nail a three-point bomb, extending Choctaw Central's lead to six. Kemper countered with seven straight points, taking its first lead since the opening period when Kenny Boyd got a basket inside off a dish from Chris Davis.
The teams swapped the lead in the closing minutes before Kensie Henry's two free throws tied it for Choctaw Central at 54-54 with 26.4 seconds left in regulation.
In the extra period, the teams were tied at 56 and 58 before RonTerrian Dale's basket with 22 seconds left put Kemper ahead.
Choctaw Central came right back down and got a three-pointer from Antonio Garcia the team's 10th of the night to go up 61-60 with 11 seconds left. But Kemper answered, as Gale stepped just inside the three-point arc and buried a jumper with three ticks remaining to lift the Wildcats.
Gale finished with 11 points and five assists, while Kemper was led by Kenny Boyd's 29 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. Dale scored 10 points, Terrance Westerfield had six rebounds and four assists and Griffin had four assists and three steals. Derrick Boyd also had three steals.
Kemper outrebounded Choctaw Central 41-28 in the contest as the Wildcats improved to 3-1 and gave Jackson his 596th career coaching victory.
The Warriors, who fell to 0-2 on the young season, got 12 points and four assists from Beasley Willis and 10 points from Garcia. Giovann Dixon scored eight points, had four assists and three steals, Lewis scored seven and had three steals and Henry finished with eight points.
Choctaw Central girls 84, Kemper County 38: The Lady Warriors had little trouble improving to 3-0 and keeping one of the nation's longest home-court winning streaks alive.
Choctaw Central actually trailed this contest 11-8 late in the first quarter, but the Lady Warriors went on a 31-10 run over the final nine minutes of the first half for a 39-21 advantage.
CCHS continued to pour it on in the third quarter, when Shavon Willis nailed a trio of three-pointers to help her team score 31 points and take a commanding 70-28 lead into the final period.
Willis finished with a team-high 16 points, while Crystal Lewis scored 15 and Melinda Ben 14. Deaundra Johnson added 10 for coach Willis Tullos and Chantay Frazier chipped in six. The Lady Warriors hit nine three-pointers.
Kemper County, which fell to 0-4, turned the ball over 38 times in the contest.
The Lady Wildcats were led by Tamician Davis, who scored 10 points and had six steals. Monique Mosley scored eight points, Brooke Hudson scored seven points and had seven rebounds and LaErika Ivy scored six points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
Rocky Higginbotham is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@meridianstar.com.