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South Leake squeaks past Newton

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Feb. 10, 2001
NEWTON There are regular season basketball games that have a playoff atmosphere.
Then there are games that have a state tournament flair.
Friday's boys' contest between South Leake and Newton had just that as the visiting Wildcats took a 74-73 win in what could eventually be a Big House matchup.
South Leake came in with a 28-1 record, a perfect 10-0 showing in Division 5-2A (from which the last three Class 2A state champions have emerged), and a 25-game win streak. Throw in being the defending 2A state champion for good measure.
Newton entered Friday's senior night with a 22-8 record and a perfect 7-0 Division 7-2A regular season showing to its list of credentials.
The two had met once before with South Leake taking a 64-61 win in the semifinals of the East Central Community College Central Mississippi Classic on Dec. 1.
The return match was just as thrilling as it wasn't decided until the final 70 seconds when South Leake's Adrian Kelly scored on back-to-back layups.
It didn't look good for the Wildcats early as Newton came out sizzling, jumping out to a 28-21 first quarter lead.
A six point second quarter by Newton allowed the Wildcats to carry a 40-34 lead into halftime.
Newton's Mario Qualls picked up his fourth foul with South Leake holding a 44-40 advantage early in the third quarter. The Wildcats then scored the next five points to go up 49-40.
Back-to-back layups by Kelly in a 20-second span gave South Leake its biggest lead of the night at 55-42 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
Qualls pulled the Tigers to within 55-45 with a three-point play with 2:09 left in the third stanza but fouled out 64 seconds later.
A layup by Ladarrian Blaylock with 6:03 remaining and a 3-pointer by the 5-foot-10 sophomore 27 seconds later trimmed Newton's deficit to 61-59.
A driving layup by Lance Pruitt tied the game at 61-61 with 4:49 left as South Leake had yet to tally in the period.
After a 63-63 deadlock, South Leake's Chris Bloodsaw and Jerry Luckett scored baskets to give the Wildcats a 67-63 lead with just over two minutes to go.
Two free throws from Charles Dukes pulled Newton to within 67-65 with 1:54 to play.
After a free throw from Kelly at the 1:39 mark, the 5-foot-10 senior guard converted back-to-back layups in a 13-second span to give the Wildcats a 74-67 lead with 53 seconds showing.
Despite three straight missed three throws by South Leake and a pair of 3s from Blaylock in the final 28 seconds, the Wildcats held on for the win.
Pruitt led Newton, 22-9, with 21 points. Qualls scored 16, Blaylock and Bobby Lindsey both had 11, Terrell Edwards scored eight, and Dukes had six.
South Leake got 22 points from Jamal Brown, 20 from Kelly, 11 each from Bloodsaw and Luckett, and six from Lekendrick Fortune.
Newton girls 56, South Leake 48: While they lack the gaudy credentials of their male counterparts, the two girls' teams have both turned in good seasons as well and Friday's contest showed why.
Newton jumped out to a 20-7 first quarter lead and took a 34-25 advantage into halftime. South Leake rallied to within 44-41 by the end of the third period.
The Lady Tigers then used a 12-7 fourth quarter edge to improve to 18-14.
Newton got 16 points from Creoshia Williams, 13 from Lenore Gray, 10 from Latonya Jordan, eight from Kotreece Bender, and five from Twila Clayton. All are underclassmen.
South Leake, 19-12, got 25 points from Monique Overstreet, 10 from Brandy Earnest, and eight from Yolanda Fortune. All three are juniors.