Kemper County takes 5-2A title
By By Rocky Higginbotham/Special to The Star
Feb. 16, 2002
LEXINGTON Like many of his teammates, Kemper County's Marques Mays spent time on the bench during a turnover-plagued night for the Wildcats.
But when Kemper needed a clutch basket during a second-half scoring drought, Mays delivered.
Mays knocked down a trio of crucial 3-pointers for Kemper during a scoring spurt that put the Wildcats ahead for good, and Kemper County beat South Leake 59-53 to claim the Division 5-2A Tournament championship.
Williams-Sullivan, which hosted the event at J.J. McClain High School, won the girls' division title with a come-from-behind, 75-63 win over Newton High.
In the boys' contest, Kemper overcame a sluggish performance and 28 turnovers to claim the sixth division title in Charles Jackson's 12 years of coaching the Wildcats.
South Leake, which beat Newton in Thursday's semifinals, controlled the tempo for most of the night and looked as if it might be primed for its second surprise of the tournament.
The Walnut Grove-based Wildcats were down by as many as nine points early, but closed within 30-29 at halftime. South Leake scored eight straight points during a third-quarter run and was up 42-38 in the closing seconds of the period.
But that's when Mays hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Kemper, sending the Wildcats into the fourth quarter with a 44-42 lead.
Those shots were also the beginning of a 14-0 run for Kemper sparked by a rare four-point play by Mays. He hit a 3-pointer from the right corner, got fouled and followed up with the free throw to help Kemper build a 10-point edge.
Kemper went on to lead by as many as 12 before South Leake finished the game on an 8-2 spurt.
The win improved the Wildcats to 26-6 on the season, and assured Kemper of a home playoff game Tuesday night. The Wildcats will host either McLaurin or St. Joseph's at 7 p.m. in a first-round, Class 2A South State game.
Mays and Kenny Boyd finished with 13 points apiece to lead four Kemper players in double figures. Boyd, named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, added seven rebounds and three blocked shots, while James Moore had 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Chris Davis scored 10 points, Gary Griffin scored six and Terrance Westerfield grabbed six rebounds.
Kemper made up for its 28 turnovers with a 32-23 edge on the glass.
South Leake, which will travel to either McLaurin or St. Joseph's Tuesday for a first-round South State game, got 15 points from Jerry Luckett and 14 from Chris Morgan. Deanthony Ealy score 10, Cherlon Ellis scored nine and Terrance Fortune had six assists.
Newton girls 63
The host Lady Yellow Jackets literally blitzed Newton in the fourth quarter on their way to the division championship.
Newton, which lost for the third time to Williams-Sullivan and fell to 25-5 on the year, led 33-25 at halftime and was up by double digits in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer from Angela Howard with six seconds left in the third quarter pulled Williams-Sullivan within 48-44, then the Lady Jackets exploded for 31 points in the final eight minutes.
Howard's 3 with 6:34 remaining tied it at 51 and started a 9-0 run that put the Lady Jackets ahead for good.
Howard scored 14 points in the final period and 23 in the second half on her way to game-high honors of 28 points. Mary Timms scored 22, Cheridy Bullock scored 10 and Keilandra Scruggs had nine.
The only two players for Newton to score in double figures both fouled out. Lenore Gray had 19 and Tonya Jordan 10, while Kotreece Bender scored nine points and Twila Clayton and Marquita McLaurin had eight apiece.
The Lady Tigers will travel to the Division 6-2A champion Monday at 7 p.m. for a first-round, Class 2A playoff game, while Williams-Sullivan hosts the 6-2A runnerup at the same time.