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West girls exit early

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
Feb. 14, 2001
A lot of folks were anticipating another Choctaw Central/West Lauderdale girls' clash in Thursday's semifinals of the Division 5-3A Tournament at Southeast Lauderdale.
But West coach Jody Hurst insisted his team had a major obstacle in Tuesday night's first-round game against Velma Jackson, and he was right.
Velma turned on the jets in the third quarter, then opened the final period by hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers and raced to a 71-59 win over West Lauderdale in the only girls' game in the tournament Tuesday.
Velma Jackson moves on to take on top-seeded Choctaw Central in Thursday's semifinals at 4 p.m., and No. 2 seed and host Southeast battles No. 3 seed Newton County at 7 p.m., Thursday in the other semifinal.
The girls' championship is slated for 6 p.m. Friday.
Velma Jackson girls 71, West Lauderdale 59: Hurst and the Lady Knights were feeling good about themselves late in the first half, when West got seven straight points from Julie McCrory and a bucket from Kristina Gardner to build an 11-point advantage.
But Velma's Letyshea Murry hit a 30-foot 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer, then the Lady Falcons got an old-fashioned three-point play to begin the second half. An 11-point West lead was cut to five, and the momentum shifted.
Was it ever. Velma eventually went ahead behind guards Katunia Levy and Latishea Murry, and carried a 44-40 lead into the final quarter.
The Lady Falcons were 5-21 from 3-point range in the first three quarters. But Velma hit 4-of-5 in a two-minute stretch to start the fourth quarter, taking a 56-47 advantage with 5:26 left.
West twice cut its deficit to five, but Levy hit four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win for Velma.
Levy finished with a game-high 30 points and four steals, while Letyshea Murry had 14 points and six steals and Latishea Murry 11 points and seven assists for the Lady Falcons.
McCrory scored 18 points, had four assists and four steals in her final game in a Lady Knights' uniform. J.J. Huggins had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Gardner scored 13 points and had eight rebounds and Jawanda Huggins had six points and nine boards.
West, which also got six points and three assists from Patty Monroe and three steals from Cierra Jennings, committed 21 turnovers. Velma had 17, but just three in the second half.
The Lady Knights lose McCrory, Mandy McAlister and Brandi Williams off this year's squad, which finished 21-10.
Ironically, Tuesday's matchup of fourth-seeded West and No. 5 seed Velma was a rematch of last year's division championship game, also won by the Lady Falcons. West Lauderdale, however, won this year's regular-season division game at Camden.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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