Meridian falls to powerful Lanier
COURT BATTLE Meridian's Chris Harris scrambles to the floor for the ball during the Wildcats' loss to Jackson Lanier on Tuesday night. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
Nov. 27, 2002
The Meridian Wildcats will need to find an answer to how to score and defend against the best teams in this state, or elsewhere. So far, in home games against the best 4A team in Mississippi and one of the best 4A teams in Alabama, the Wildcats have yet to measure up.
Lanier High School out of Jackson, the defending 4A state champion and arguably the state's top basketball program, administered another long, painful evening to the Wildcats in front of its home crowd on Tuesday night.
Lanier used a strong defensive effort and balanced scoring from four players to whip the Wildcats 77-56. The loss drops coach Ernie Watson's team to 4-2 on the season.
The Meridian Lady Wildcats, meanwhile, will take a six-game winning streak into the Thanksgiving break after rolling to its third straight blowout win at home. The Meridian girls cruised past Lanier 63-34 to move to 6-1 on the year.
Lanier boys 77
Lanier, now 7-0, showed why it is the state's best team and one of the best in the country. The Bulldogs were ranked 21st by the USA Today in the preseason prep boys poll.
The Bulldogs' defense from the halfcourt line back was too much for the Wildcats to handle. Meridian was pretty much left with one option, USM signee Jason Windom.
Watson was pretty blunt about where his team stands.
Windom was able to work well inside early scoring eight of his game-high 29 points in the first quarter. A highlight was taking the ball at the point and driving for a one-handed jam to make it 15-14 after one quarter.
Lanier, though, began clamping down inside behind 6-foot-7 center Issac Wells and quick wings Monta and Jarenta Ellis. The Wildcats couldn't finish shots inside while the Bulldogs did.
Lanier eased out to a 24-16 lead before a three-pointer by E.J. Watson made it 24-19. Lanier answered with an 8-3 run to close the half for a 32-22 lead.
The Bulldogs then scored the first five points of the second half to go up 37-22 and Meridian was unable to mount a serious challenge after that. The Wildcats fell behind by 21 before a a basket by Maurice Naylor and a three-pointer by Windom made it 55-39 at the end of three quarters.
Lanier's half-court zone trap blew the game wide open in the fourth quarter. Meridian kept making mistakes dribbling or passing into the teeth of the trap. Lanier led by as many as 27 points before Windom got hot again with three, three-pointers to account for the 21-point margin.
Monta Ellis led Lanier with 19 points. Eric Williams had 14 followed by Jarenta Ellis with 14 and Brian Burns had 10.
No other Wildcat had more than five points.
Meridian girls 63
The Lady Wildcats scored the game's first nine points and never had much of a problem with Lanier.
Once again, Meridian's frontcourt played well. Center Courtney Wade and forwards Valencia Hairston and Alexis Clemons combined for 42 points.
Clemons scored all nine of her points in the second quarter as Meridian built a comfortable 27-11 halftime lead.
Hairston then scored back-to-back baskets in the third quarter to extend the advantage to 42-15. It was 48-20 after three quarters.
Meridian head coach Donald Shirley was able to play his reserves for the entire fourth quarter.
Hairston led Meridian with 17 points. Wade had 16 followed by Clemons with nine.
Leah Bingham led Lanier with 12 points.