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Kemper Cats knock off Pass Christian in front of electric crowd

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
Feb. 21, 2001
DEKALB Charles Jackson guided Kemper County to the school's only state championship in any sport when he led his Wildcats to the 1992 Class 3A boys' basketball title.
In the process, Jackson built one of the area's top programs and one of the most electric, closed-in atmospheres around. Tuesday night, Jackson felt that electricity again for the first time in quite a while.
In front of a raucous packed house, Kemper opened the Class 3A state playoffs with a 75-62 win over highly-regarded Pass Christian, setting off a wild celebration by swarming fans on the floor afterward.
The Wildcats were pretty hot, as well, hitting nine 3-pointers in the contest. Pass Christian hit 10 from long range.
Back-to-back 3s by Chris Davis forced the visiting Pirates into a timeout less than two minutes into the game. It worked, as Pass Christian got 3s of its own from Vuong Nguyen and Ruben Nichols and took its biggest lead of the game at 21-14.
Kemper struck back, however, getting long-range bombs from Kendrick Gale to spark a 9-0 run to end the first quarter and the seesaw battle was on.
The Wildcats were up 39-37 at halftime and just 55-54 going into the fourth quarter.
There, Davis and Terrance Westerfield hit 3-pointers to spark a 10-2 run by Kemper that forced another timeout by the Pirates. Pass Christian did pull within five points at 67-62 with 3:26 remaining, but Kemper County scored the next eight points and sealed the win on a slam dunk by James Moore with 40 seconds left.
The Wildcats put five players in double figures for just the third time this season. Kenny Boyd's 14 points and seven boards led the way, while Davis scored 13. Moore had a double-double with 12 points, 11 assists and four steals, Kendrick Gale had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Westerfield finished with a double-double, as well, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Gary Griffin added six points and Derrick Boyd five rebounds for Kemper, which had 23 assists and a 39-31 edge on the glass to help overcome 20 turnovers.
Bradford Cook's 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals led Pass Christian, which finished its season with a 27-8 mark. Richard Dedeaux scored 12, Nguyen had 12 and Nichols finished with nine points, four assists and three steals for the Division 8-3A runnerups.
Kemper County, which has won 14 of its last 16 games to improve to 25-10, moves on to the Class 3A South State "Final Four" Tournament.
Pass Christian was originally slated to host the event, but a new site is expected to be named today.
Regardless, Kemper's Wildcats will take on Prentiss Friday night, needing just one victory in the two-day event to go to the Big House for the fifth time.
Prentiss beat homestanding Franklin County Tuesday to advance.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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