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Meridian boys and girls stay unbeaten

By Staff
UP IN THE AIR – Meridian's Keno LeFlore drives to the basket against NE Lauderdale. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
June 22, 2002
Both the Meridian Wildcats and Lady Wildcats are churning toward the medal round in the high school basketball competition for the State Games of Mississippi.
Coach Donald Shirley's Lady Wildcats picked up a pair of victories on Friday at the Meridian Physical Education Building beating Laurel 49-37 and then dispatching a tough Kossuth squad 57-40.
The Wildcats of head coach Ernie Watson also won twice on Friday. They opened with a 91-34 thrashing of Columbia. Then in a late afternoon game, they dethroned 2001 gold medalist-winning Northeast Lauderdale 55-41.
Meridian 55
NE Lauderdale 41
Northeast made a late run in the first half to put Meridian behind for the first time in three games in a matchup of area medal contenders.
Three free throws by Dekino Winston gave the Trojans a 23-22 lead.
The Wildcats, though, came right back getting baskets from Keno Leflore and 6-foot-9 sophomore post Cyrus McGowen to reclaim the lead. Meridian scored the last six points of the half to take a 28-23 halftime lead.
A three-pointer by E.J. Watson followed by a slam from Jason Windom, his third of the game, opened up a 40-28 lead for the Wildcats.
A three-pointer by Kalani White pulled Northeast to within 11 at 45-34. Meridian answered going back inside to McGowen who scored off an inbound set to make it 47-34 with 6:15 left. Northeast was unable to mount another challenge from that point.
Watson said the play of McGowen, a transfer from Noxubee County, gives the Wildcats a deeper inside game.
Northeast head coach Lewis Lightsey said his team just didn't have enough bodies to handle Meridian.
Meridian, 3-0 in Pool III, made 21 field goals and was nine of 16 from the line. McGowen led the Wildcats with 14 points. Leflore had 12 and Windom chipped in 10. Watson had eight, including six on two, three-pointers.
White led Northeast, now 2-1 in pool play, with 13 points. Maurice Langston had eight points while Marcus Betts chipped in six.
Meridian girls 57
Kossuth 40
Kossuth presented Meridian with a different sort of challenge on Friday. The patient, well-coached team from the northeast part of the state made the Lady Wildcats work.
A strong second half, however, led the Lady Wildcats to their third straight win of the State Games.
Valencia Hairston tossed in a game high 28 points. Freshman point guard Brittney Davidson added 14 from the perimeter to steer Meridian.
Shirley liked how his team responded after leading by just two at the half, 23-21.
Shirley was able to use some young post players inside like freshman Amber Walker. That allowed Hairston, a rising 6-1 senior, to play more on the outside.
Meridian opened the second half with Alexis Clemons scoring inside. Then Hairston made a steal and layup to make it 27-21. Two more free throws by Clemons and a basket by Walker put Meridian up 10 at 31-21.
The lead would reach 15 on a couple of occassions before Kossuth made one last push in the final 2:40 of the game.
Ashley Jones scored nine of her team high 25 points in a 1:30 stretch that cut the deficit to nine at 49-40 with 1:03 to play.
But two free throws by Hairston with 50 seconds left iced the contest.
Meridian boys 91
Columbia 34
Meridian placed five players in double figures to romp past Columbia who had entered the day 1-0.
Daniel Boyd led the Wildcats with 16 points. Following up were Jason Windom with 13, E.J. Watson had 11, E.J. Hampton tossed in 12 and Theo Naylor had 10. Cyrus McGowen just missed having nine.
Northeast boys 55
McAdams 38
Kalani White scored 14 points in the second half to lift Northeast Lauderdale to its second straight win in Pool III play. White finished with 16 as the Trojans whipped McAdams 55-38.
Marcus Betts chipped in 11 points for the Trojans. Antyone Brooks and Thaddeus Wilson each scored nine for McAdams (0-2).
Laurel girls 52
Central Academy 25
LaTaya Anderson and Rena McCullum combined for 28 points to lead Laurel past Central Academy 52-25 on Friday in girls action.
The loss dropped Central to 0-2 in the tournament.
Anderson and McCullum each had 14 points. LaTina Evans and Regina Johnikan both had six for Laurel, 1-2.
Central was led by Meagan Stokes with 16 points.
Meridian girls 49
Laurel girls 37
Meridian overcame Laurel with a strong second half. The two teams were tied 21-21 at the half before Meridian used a 28-16 second stanza to grab the win.
Valencia Hairston tossed in 18 points to pace Meridian in its second win in pool play. Alexis Clemons had seven and Megan Mendiola had six.
LaTaya Anderson paced Laurel with nine points. Bianca Gully chipped in seven.
Kossuth girls 28
McAdams 27
Kossuth opened its day with a narrow 28-27 win over McAdams. The loss dropped McAdams to 1-1 for the tourney.
Mary Ann Potts led Kossuth with 14 points. Ashley Jones chipped in eight.
D. Brown led McAdams with 11.
Kemper County boys 56
Laurel 54
Kemper County got 26 points from Terrance Westerfield to edge Laurel 56-54. The loss was Laurel's second of the State Games.
D. Williams chipped in 14 for the Wildcats who improved to 1-1 in pool play. LaShon Triplett had nine.
Laurel was led by Jarvis McCray with 14 and Kendrick Smith had 11.
Laurel boys 66
McAdams 51
Laurel picked up its first win of the State Games by beating McAdams 66-51 on Friday. Jarvis McCray tossed in a game high 28 points, with 16 coming in the second half.
Kendrick Smith chipped in 22. The Tornadoes, 1-2, led 34-32 at the half.
A. Brooks paced McAdams, 0-3, with 22.
Kemper County 71
Columbia 70
The lead switched hands four times in the final minute but it was a layup by Kemper's Dennis Cole that gave the Wildcats a one-point decision over Columbia in Friday's final game.
Kemper moves to 2-1 in pool play with its second close win of the day. Terrance Westerfield fired in a game high 37 points to pace the Wildcats. Colby Wren and LaShon Triplett each had eight points.
Columbia, 1-2, had four players in double figures.