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Central, Heidelberg play for region title

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
Feb. 10, 2001
FLOWOOD Neither was necessarily favored to get to this point earlier in the season, but the girls' basketball teams from Central Academy and Heidelberg Academy woke up today one victory away from the MPSA Class A Central Region title.
Central finished its game on an 11-2 run to knock off arch-rival Kemper Academy 47-40, while Heidelberg Academy held off Sharkey-Issaquena 53-45 to advance to today's championship game at University Christian School's Coyte Vance Gymnasium.
Kemper and Sharkey-Issaquena meet in today's consolation contest at 1 p.m., then Central and Heidelberg tangle at 2:30 for the championship in a rematch of last Saturday's District 3-A title game.
All four teams have already qualified for next week's Mississippi Private School Association Class A State Tournament, which begins Monday also at University Christian.
Central Academy 47, Kemper Academy 40: The Lady Vikings led most of the way, but had to rally late after Kemper had taken the lead behind senior forward Alicia Dufour.
Central, which is now 19-17, was up 20-18 at halftime, then opened the second half with 10 straight points to take its biggest lead, 30-18 on a basket by Mary Margaret McClure halfway through the third quarter.
That's when Dufour took over. Her steal and layup started a Kemper run that eventually put the Lady Rams ahead. A putback by Megan Whitaker and a 3-pointer from freshman Leslie Beach at the end of the third pulled Kemper within 32-29, and two straight baskets by Dufour gave the Lady Rams a 33-32 lead with 6:47 left.
Dufour's two free throws with 1:52 on the clock broke a 36-36 tie and gave Kemper its final lead. But after a scoring drought of 4:01, Central outscored the Lady Rams 11-2 the rest of the way to secure its first win over Kemper this season.
McClure had nine of those 11 points, and finished with a game-high 24. The lone senior for the Lady Vikings also had 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals for the defending region champs.
Meagan Stokes barely missed a triple-double with 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight steals for Central, while Leslie Hancock had four steals and Carrie Coker three.
Dufour led Kemper with 15 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. Jessica Harpole added nine points and six steals, Whitaker had 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals, Beach scored six points and Blair Johnson had seven boards as KA fell to 15-16.
Heidelberg Academy 53, Sharkey-Issaquena 45: The Lady Rebels looked to be in control of Friday afternoon's first semifinal contest, but Sharkey came roaring back in the second half.
Heidelberg built a 30-15 lead that the Lady Rebels took into the locker room at halftime. And even though the Lady Feds pulled within five heading into the final quarter, Heidelberg pushed that lead back to double digits before point guard Courtney Harrington fouled out with 4:49 left.
Another big push by Sharkey ensued, and the Lady Feds got as close as one before Heidelberg's clutch free-throw shooting pulled out the win for the Lady Rebels who are now 16-11.
Heidelberg scored 21 of its points from the charity stripe, and got 16 points from Suzanne Lightsey in the win. Katie Barnett scored 13, Shana Thornton had 11 and Ashlie McInnis eight.
Kristen Cox led Sharkey with 16 points.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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