Cats scratch defending champs
REACHING n Meridian's Jamaine Winfield (30) dishes off to a teammate as he is pressured by Harrison Central's Anthony Hall during their 5A State Tournament game Tuesday night. Meridian won the game 65-56. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star.
By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Feb. 21, 2001
The Meridian High Wildcats continued to show the state's high school basketball world why they are perhaps the most dangerous team in Class 5A with a 65-56 defeat of the sixth-ranked Harrison Central Red Rebels in front of a boisterous crowd at Turnage Gymnasium.
Fortunately for Watson's club, they did just that. And with the win, the Wildcats (26-7) advance to the Class 5A South State Tournament at a site not yet determined.
Watson's club is one win away from a return trip to the Mississippi Coliseum, but before that, the real mystery following Tuesday night's win was where the Cats would head next.
Pascagoula, which had the inside track of hosting this weekend's tournament, was eliminated by Jackson Jim Hill.
Since the Lady Wildcats will be hosting the girls' 5A South State, it is virtually impossible that both the boys and girls would share the same venue. At least unprecedented.
One avenue Watson hinted at exploring would be this weekend's availability of Meridian Community College's Ivy Sports Center, if in fact MCC's home basketball game could be moved from 2 p.m. to noon.
And if Watson was gauging the latter statement on his team's performance against the Red Rebels (26-7), he may have a strong case.
Cat guard Tony Dunn, who finished with 10 points, came up big in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, draining six straight free throws to put the brakes on a 15-6 Red Rebel surge that bridged the final two frames.
Dunn said he just felt comfortable at home and himself did a little campaigning. "I wasn't nervous at all, in fact I was pretty comfortable. It would be better if we had South State here."
But Dunn and the others couldn't have been comfortable early on, as both teams came out of the gate going toe-to-toe.
Redd Morgan, who paced the Red Rebel attack with 14, got a steal and a layup to put the visitors up early and both teams traded baskets for a frenetic 18-18 first quarter.
The second frame was marked by stingy defense, as both teams only combined for 11 points.
Jeremy Ruffin, who led the Wildcats with 15 points, five steals, four rebounds and three assists, broke away for a strong slam dunk at the buzzer to put an exclamation point on MHS' slim 25-22 lead at the break.
Jamaine Winfield, who tallied 12, had a stickback just two minutes into the third to give MHS a 33-24 lead. The Cats then outscored Harrison Central by four over the next four minutes to go up 43-30 at the 2:01 mark of the period.
The Cats then matched their largest lead of the night after Harrison Central's Lewis hit a pair of free throws for two of his nine.
Anthony Hall had eight, and it was his free throws that inched HCHS to within 49-45 at the 3:47 mark of the game.
Red Rebel center Byron Sanders, who also had nine points, had to leave the floor briefly with an injury, but in his absence Morgan drained a pair of triples, sandwiched around the Dunn freebies to pull the Rebels back to within four with just 42 ticks left.
But it wasn't to be for Ricky Sullivan's team and the coach pointed a poor first half that spiraled them to a total of 25 turnovers.
Quadrick Griffin added 11, including a couple of big long-range jumpers and Michael Davis had seven points. Each team had 12 steals and the Cats claimed the slim 22-19 rebound advantage.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.