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Cats clinch 2-5A crown

By By Marty Stamper/staff writer
Jan. 16, 2002
If the Meridian Wildcats don't win the Division 2-5A Tournament in mid-February, they'll only have themselves to blame.
The Wildcats wrapped up the top seed in the postseason tournament with an 80-66 win over 11th-ranked Starkville Tuesday night on the recently refurbished gym floor at MHS.
Meridian has now faced all three division opponents and holds double-digit wins over all three. The Cats knocked off then-No. 1 Columbus 44-34 Friday at Meridian Community College and took an 81-66 victory at Tupelo on Dec. 7.
After a 10-10 first-quarter draw, the Wildcats opened the second period with an 8-0 run and never trailed again. Fred Cole had a three-point play to start the run with Matthew Gonzalez knocking down a 3-pointer and Mark Walker scoring from close range for an 18-10 advantage.
The Cats led by as much as 12 points (35-23) before B.J. Spencer knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Yellowjackets to within 35-26 at the break.
Meridian scored 10 of the first 13 points of the third quarter to earn a little breathing room. Jason Windom had two layups, the first coming when Starkville's 6-foot-9 junior Dandy Dozen selection Travis Outlaw had his dunk attempt blocked by Theo Naylor. Windom followed up his six-point run with a rim-rattling dunk to put the Cats up 45-29 with 4:51 left in the third period.
Starkville, 15-7, fought back and got to within 52-45 on a basket from Outlaw with 58 seconds to go in the third period.
Meridian led 56-47 to start the fourth quarter and led by as many as 16 points on two occasions.
The Cats placed five players in double figures. Cole had 21 points with Tony Dunn scoring 14, Naylor 13, Windom 12, and Keno Leflore 10.
Of Meridian's eight losses, four have come against out-of-state competition in tournaments at Barbe, La., and Poplar Bluff, Mo. The Cats get a shot at Mississippi's new No. 1 Murrah Saturday at Terry.
Outlaw led Starkville with a game-high 24 points. Spencer scored 18 and Chauncey Jones tossed in 11.
Meridian girls 48
Starkville 31
The Lady Wildcats snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 1-2 in 2-5A with the 17-point victory.
Meridian came out hot, scoring the game's first 15 points and building a 26-4 lead by the end of the first quarter. Stephanie Mosley had 11 points and Valencia Hairston had 10 by the end of the opening period.
Then the Lady Wildcats turned just as cold as they had been hot, not scoring a point for the entire second period.
Starkville fared little better in the second quarter, managing only three points to trail 26-7 at halftime.
Meridian's scoreless streak totaled nearly 11 minutes before Megan Mendiola canned a 3-pointer with 5:38 left in the third quarter to put the Lady Wildcats up 29-14.
Meridian led by as much as 25 points (48-23) with just over three minutes to play.
Meridian, 13-9, got 19 points from Hairston and 18 from Mosley. Mendiola added six.
Starkville, 3-12, got eight points each from Marcia Milons and Rasheeda Crawford and seven from Letita Moore.

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