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MHS boys better NCHS Cougars

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
Dec. 9, 2000
DECATUR Turnovers and a lack of a post game have plagued Meridian High School's boys' basketball team all season.
Friday night at Newton County, the Wildcats solved both of those problems. The result? An 83-61 win over the host Cougars that MHS head coach Ernie Watson called his team's best performance of the season.
Meridian got 20 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Jason Windom, while football star Jeremy Ruffin turned in his best performance of the season with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Meridian led the game 20-12 after one quarter, and after Newton County tied things at 23-23 halfway through the second period, the Wildcats finished the first half on a 14-6 run for a 37-29 lead at halftime.
The third quarter began with Newton County's Al Willis scoring nine straight points for his squad only to see MHS counter with two putbacks from Ruffin and a three-pointer from Quadrick Griffin.
The Wildcats opened things up late in the third, when Fred Cole threw down an ally-oop slam dunk and then got another bucket in the paint on a nice dish from Ruffin to stretch Meridian's lead to 14.
Newton County got within eight points with 7:48 remaining in the contest, and was as close as 60-53 with 5:34 left when Chris Wansley hit a three-pointer. But the Cougars could manage just three field goals the rest of the way, and lost both Willis and senior center Tony Smith to their fifth fouls as Meridian pulled away.
Willis scored 19 points and had three assists before leaving with 3:58 left and his team down by 11. Smith fouled out three minutes later with seven points, 15 rebounds and four assists.
In addition to Willis and Smith, Newton County got 13 points and nine rebounds from Wansley and 11 points from Mylan Anderson. Del Merrell scored seven points and had three assists and Justin Smith had six rebounds and three assists.
MHS, in addition to the big nights from Ruffin and Windom, got 14 points and six boards from Fred Cole and 10 points from Griffin. Tony Dunn and Otis Bumpers handed out three assists apiece, and Meridian turned the ball over just 13 times.
Meridian returns home tonight to face Heidelberg, while Newton County's next action is Tuesday, when the Cougars host Southeast Lauderdale.
Rocky Higginbotham is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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