Northeast edges Southeast on last-second free throws
By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
During the entire first half of Thursday afternoon's opening-round matchup with Southeast in the Lauderdale County Tournament, Northeast Lauderdale's Quin Jackson dominated the Lady Tigers from the baseline.
In the end, however, it was the free throw line where Jackson performed her biggest damage.
With no time on the clock, Jackson hit three straight free throws, and Northeast escaped with a 62-61 win over Southeast at Meridian Community College's Ivy Sports Center.
Southeast had taken a 61-59 lead over Northeast on a pair of free throws by Monique Horner with 4.8 seconds showing on the clock. Horner then stole the inbounds pass, but stepped on the line and Northeast got ball possession back with 2.5 ticks left.
Jackson took a lob pass from just beyond half court and heaved a desperation prayer at the buzzer that was well short. But whistles indicated Jackson was fouled, and she calmly sank all three free throws to set off a wild celebration among her teammates.
Thursday's other first-round girls' game saw West Lauderdale cruise past Clarkdale 66-44. The girls' action gets under way today at MCC at 4 p.m. when Southeast tangles with Clarkdale, followed by West and Northeast at 7 p.m.
Northeast girls 62, Southeast 61: Although it was Jackson's three free throws at the end that lifted Northeast to the win, it was the Lady Trojans' impressive advantage inside that was eye-popping.
Jackson finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and three steals, while teammate Dorecious Powe scored 26 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and had four assists. The duo outscored Southeast's starting post players 54-9 and outrebounded them 32-14.
Northeast coach Dan Stegall said he was proud of the way his 3-3 team responded from a poor showing earlier this week.
The game was a series of runs, with Southeast enjoying the biggest a 16-2 spurt that put the Lady Tigers ahead 23-14 early in the second quarter. But Northeast answered right back with a 15-2 run, and Southeast was clinging to a 30-27 lead at halftime.
The Lady Tigers were up 45-39 heading into the final quarter, where Powe scored two straight baskets then got a steal and assist that capped an 8-0 run to put Northeast ahead 47-45.
The lead changed hands five times over the final four minutes.
Erika Ruffin nailed a wide-open three for Southeast with 1:01 left, then her steal and assist gave Horner a layup 12 seconds later to make it 59-56.
Jackson hit 1-of-2 freebies with 6.7 seconds on the clock to tie it, but Horner was fouled quickly and sank both shots on the other end to put Southeast ahead 61-59 before Jackson's heroics at the end.
Crystal Hopson helped out Powe and Jackson with eight points and six rebounds for Northeast, which outrebounded Southeast 53-36.
Horner finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals to lead Southeast, while Lesley Ruffin scored 11 points and had three steals. Kenitta Cooley had 11 rebounds and Erika Ruffin scored six points and had five steals.
West Lauderdale girls 66, Clarkdale 44: The Lady Knights got six points each from Julie McCrory and Kristina Gardner in the first quarter as West jumped out to an 18-0 lead and coasted to an easy win.
West, which improved to 3-2 on the season, led 33-9 at halftime and 51-22 after three periods of play before Clarkdale heated up from the field in the final quarter.
Gardner finished with 14 points to lead the Lady Knights, while Shannon Lloyd scored 12. McCrory scored nine and Patti Monroe added eight.
Carmelita Naylor, in her first game action of the season for Clarkdale, finished strong and wound up with a game-high 15 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs. Misti Alexander scored eight.
Rocky Higginbotham is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.