Lady Tigers win 3A South
By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Feb. 25, 2001
PHILADELPHIA In the home of Mississippi's only inland casino, few basketball fans would have put their money on Southeast Lauderdale winning the Class 3A South State Tournament this weekend, but that's exactly what the Lady Tigers did.
After downing Forest 59-54 in Friday's semifinals, Southeast held off Hazlehurst 61-58 in Saturday's championship game. It's Southeast's first trip to the Big House since 1997 as the Lady Tigers improved to 30-8.
Not bad for a team that won only five of its first nine games.
Choctaw Central advanced to state for the fifth time in the last six years with a 75-67 consolation game win over Forest.
Choctaw Central's first game in the Class 3A State Tournament in Jackson will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday against Independence, a 79-48 loser to South Pontotoc in the 3A North State finals.
Southeast's first game at state will be on March 3 at 6:30 p.m. against the Choctaw Central-Independence winner.
Southeast Lauderdale girls 61, Hazlehurst 58: Lesley Ruffin shook off a one-point outing in Friday's semifinal win over Forest to lead Southeast past Hazlehurst with a 22-point effort.
Monique Horner tossed in 19, her second-lowest outing of the season.
The Lady Tigers did not commit a foul the entire first half, a fact that helped Southeast turn up the defensive pressure a few notches after halftime.
Southeast took a 34-31 lead into halftime when Mitchell's shot just beat the horn.
Hazlehurst, 22-12, got hot late in the third quarter and led 45-41 by the end of the period.
The Lady Indians took a 49-41 lead on four straight points from Marketa Coleman early in the final period.
A steal and layup by Ruffin tied the game at 53-53 with 3:32 remaining and Southeast would not trail again.
Another layup by Ruffin gave the Lady Tigers a 55-53 edge with 1:58 to go. After extending their lead to 59-53, the Lady Tigers saw Hazlehurst's Aeisha Collins bury a 3 with 26 seconds left to make it 59-56.
Horner then iced the championship with a pair of free throws with 13.8 seconds left.
Southeast also got 13 points from Cooley.
Hazlehurst got 18 points apiece from Coleman and LaToya Johnson.
Choctaw Central girls 75, Forest 67: The Lady Warriors threatened to run Forest off the reservation in the first half as they led 22-12 after one quarter behind 10 points from eighth grader Chantay Frazier and seven from Crystal Lewis.
Melinda Ben scored seven points in the second quarter as the Lady Warriors took a 46-24 lead into halftime.
Forest came storming back in the third quarter as the Lady Bearcats used a 21-10 advantage to close to within 56-45 with eight minutes to play. Sophia Gray had 10 points for Forest in the third period.
The Lady Bearcats got to within 58-52 on a 3-point bomb from Gray with 6:36 remaining.
Choctaw Central scored the next four points to go up by 10 at 62-52, but Forest rallied to within 71-65 on a short jumper in the lane from Latrice Spivey with 1:03 left.
Willa Thomas got her only two points of the night on a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left to put the Lady Warriors up 73-65.
Choctaw Central, 30-4, got 22 points from Lewis, 15 from Ben, 14 from Frazier, and nine from Trish Phillips.
Tullos now has to get his team's injuries healed as much as possible before its Tuesday morning game with Independence.
Gray scored 23 points to lead Forest, 23-13, with 6-foot-senior center Kelly Boutwell tossing in 22.
Forest also got 10 points from Spivey.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.