NE Lauderdale dethrones boys' champ Meridian
By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
June 25, 2001
Last summer, Northeast Lauderdale's boys had to deal with the loss of recently-graduated Robert Ivy, who had led the team in scoring for three consecutive years.
The result? The Trojans had one of their best teams in recent years.
This summer, Northeast is again trying to overcome the loss of its leading scorer in recently-departed Jimmy Kelly.
The result? The Trojans won their first-ever gold medal in the State Games of Mississippi basketball competition.
Northeast knocked off defending gold medal champion Meridian in a thriller Sunday morning, then the Trojans rolled up an 86-66 win over Newton in the finals at Meridian Community College's Ivy Sports Center.
"This group of kids have really played a lot of ball together," Northeast coach Lewis Lightsey said of the Trojans, who won all six of their State Games contests during the past four days.
"A lot of them have been together since middle school, and some of them … they've been the supporting cast these last couple of years. They've just really meshed well together."
The Trojans shot the lights out during the entire weekend, but especially in Sunday's title tilt considering the game was played in two 14-minute halves instead of four eight-minute quarters.
Northeast, which never trailed in the first half, got two 3-pointers each from Jamaal Martin and Stephen Dyess and led by as many as nine points before settling for a 38-34 edge at halftime.
Newton didn't go away, using the hot hands of Bobby Lindsey and David Edwards to actually take the lead at 45-44 four minutes into the second half.
That's about the same time Lightsey called his final timeout, and the result was a 12-0 run that put Northeast ahead for good.
"We decided to stop pressing, and I told them to just give me five or six minutes of real hard man-to-man," Lightsey said. "We knew if we could get that lead and spread the floor a little that we should be OK.
"We were just too tired to keep pressing, and that was the big difference."
Martin finished with 26 points to lead Northeast, while Marcus Betts scored 22 and De'Kenno Winston 14. Kalani White had eight points and 11 rebounds, Sanchez Clayton had seven points and three assists, Winston had five assists and three steals, Martin also had three assists and Greg Powell blocked four shots.
Lindsey finished with game-highs of 29 points and 12 rebounds to lead Newton, while Edwards scored 16 points. Ladarrian Blaylock scored 15 points, had six rebounds and four assists and Dranule McNair handed out five assists.
In Sunday morning's semifinals, Northeast topped Meridian 57-56 at MHS and Newton edged Raymond 72-70 at MCC.
The Trojans won behind 23 points from Winston, 13 from Betts and 10 from Martin, while Meridian coach Ernie Watson pointed to 19 missed free-throw attempts by his team.
Newton got 34 from Lindsey and broke a 36-36 tie with Class 4A Raymond in its semifinal win. Blaylock scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Edwards added 10.
Raymond got 22 points from Cortney Bradley, 15 from Geric Anderson and 13 from Antwan Atkinson.
Rocky Higginbotham is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.