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Meridian boys hold on for a close win in Columbus

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
COLUMBUS With a little more than 30 seconds showing on the clock, Ernie Watson began to wave a white towel in front of his Meridian bench.
Even that couldn't keep the Wildcats from turning over the basketball twice more, however. But fortunately for Watson on Friday, it didn't matter.
Meridian overcame a season-high 34 turnovers, and despite blowing a 14-point lead, knocked off Millington, Tenn., 58-52 in the annual Columbus High/Wendy's Christmas Classic.
It was the second win in as many days for the Wildcats in the high-profile event. Meridian beat Lafayette County 78-65 Thursday, and the 13-4 Wildcats have now won seven straight games.
Watson's summary hit the nail right on the head. Because despite MHS' 34 turnovers, Millington was nearly as bad turning it over 28 times in the contest.
In fact, the 8-4 Trojans had more turnovers than they did rebounds, as Meridian out-boarded Millington 40-27.
The Wildcats showed early they were the dominant team, with Jason Windom scoring all nine of his team's points during a 9-0 run in the first quarter that put Meridian ahead 20-6.
That was where the miscues started, however. Three of Meridian's five turnovers in the first quarter came in the final minute, when Millington scored the final six points and got back in the ballgame.
A three-pointer from Tony Law to open the second period pulled Millington within five, and early in the third quarter, the Trojans got back-to-back three-pointers from Travis Lockhart during an 8-0 run to pull within 39-37.
Meridian was up 46-40 heading into the final quarter, where Millington again forced the Wildcats to work. The Trojans cut their deficit to three on two occasions, but two free throws each by Meridian's Tony Dunn and Jeremy Ruffin in the final two minutes sealed the win for the Wildcats.
Windom scored all of his points in the first half and wound up leading Meridian with 11. Jamaine Winfield scored 10 and had seven rebounds and Keno Leflore added nine points.
Ruffin scored eight points, grabbed eight rebounds and had team-highs of five steals and three assists. Dunn added seven points and a pair of steals and Michael Davis scored six points.
Law finished with a game-high 17 points to lead Millington, while Lockhart scored 15 all of them in the second half. Dewayne Robertson chipped in seven and Tony Garner scored six.
Meridian High boys 78, Lafayette County 65: In Thursday's opening contest of the Christmas Classic at Columbus, the Wildcats used a balanced scoring attack as they coasted past Class 4A Lafayette County.
Meridian placed five players in double figures in the contest, led by Ruffin's 15 points. Dunn scored 14, while Winfield, Davis and Quadrick Griffin all had 11 points apiece.
Windom nearly made it six players in double figures, as the sophomore chipped in nine as the Wildcats improved to 12-4.
Rahman Lockhart, the brother of Ole Miss center Rahim Lockhart, led 8-8 Lafayette County with 13 points.
Meridian led by just one point after one quarter of play, but erupted for 22 points in the second quarter for a 38-30 cushion at halftime.
The Wildcats doubled their lead in the third quarter and took a 56-40 advantage into the final frame.

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