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Lady Rockets lift off

By Staff
GET PHYSICAL n Neshoba Central's Bonnie Lewis tries to shake off three George County defenders Wednesday night. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
March 1, 2001
JACKSON n Some athletes respond well to a challenge while others simply crawl in a hole and hope the challenge passes them by.
Consider Neshoba Central senior guard Tausha Evans in the group that really likes a challenge.
Evans scored a game-high 37 points to lead the Lady Rockets to a 62-56 quarterfinal win over George County in the Class 4A State Tournament in the Mississippi Coliseum Wednesday night.
George County's team featured the likes of Christy Fairley, a senior guard whose name is always at the top of the state-best times list when track season rolls around.
Earlier in the week, Neshoba Central coach Bill Smith said the Lady Rebels had at least three players as fast as Evans. If they did, they must not have made the trip up from Lucedale as Evans repeatedly outran the George County girls down the court.
The Lady Rockets improved to 28-10, while George County's season smoldered to a 24-10 finish.
Next up for Neshoba is a semifinal date with 4A South State champion Crystal Springs, 25-10, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Crystal Springs defeated George County 61-56 in the semifinals of the 4A South State tournament last week.
The Lady Rockets held a slim 10-9 lead after one quarter Wednesday night before taking a 32-25 advantage into halftime behind 16 points from Evans and six from Krystal Wells.
The Lady Rebels owned the boards, especially on the offensive end, in the first half to stay in the game.
George County closed to within 37-30 early in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer from Evans at the 3:36 mark extended Neshoba's lead to 42-30.
The Lady Rockets outscored the Lady Rebels 15-11 in the third period with Evans scoring all but two of Neshoba's points.
An Evans free throw gave Neshoba its biggest lead of the night at 50-36 with 6:16 remaining.
George County got to within 50-42 on a pair of free throws from Allyson Lawrence with 5:10 remaining, but needed a basket from Fairley with 32 seconds left to still trail by eight at 59-51.
Evans' performance included a 13-of-16 showing at the free-throw line.
About the only question left to be answered late in the game was whether Evans would reach the tournament single-game record of 43 points set by Latoya Thomas of Greenville in 1999. She didn't, but has at least one more shot at it.
Neshoba also got eight points from Elyse Willis, six from Wells, and five from Latoya Jones. The usually dependable inside game of Jones, Bonnie Lewis, and Miranda Rosar did not score a basket and were only 6-of-15 at the free-throw line. The group did control the boards in the final period as Neshoba held off a late charge by the Lady Rebels.
As for the semifinal on Tuesday, Smith said, "I think it'll definitely make a difference that we've got a game here under our belt."
George County got 19 points from Cindy Pritchett, 14 from Lawrence, 10 from Octavia Carter, and eight from Latasha Pritchett.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sports@themeridianstar.com.

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