Newton County sends Choctaw Central packing

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
Feb. 14, 2001
Even though Newton County was seeded slightly higher than Choctaw Central heading into their Division 5-3A Tournament matchup Tuesday night, all the pregame momentum seemed to be in favor of the Warriors.
After all, Choctaw Central had played its best basketball of the season in recent weeks after the return of Julius Willis and Newton County was playing without 6-foot-8 center Tony Smith, who was serving a suspension for his involvement in a game altercation Friday night.
So much for pregame momentum.
Even after falling behind by double digits, Newton County rallied in the second half and knocked off Choctaw Central 68-63, eliminating the Warriors for the second straight season.
Tuesday's other first-round boys' game saw Kemper County beat Carthage 87-64.
Thursday's boys' semifinals shape up like this: At 5:30 p.m., Newton County tackles top-seeded Velma Jackson; and at 8:30 p.m., second-seeded West Lauderdale gets Kemper County.
The boys' championship is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Newton County 68, Choctaw Central 63: The Warriors scored the last 11 points of the first quarter for a 19-12 advantage, and stretched that lead to 37-26 at halftime.
But the Cougars roared back to within five heading into the fourth, and pulled within one on a 3-pointer by Del Merrell with 3:17 left.
Another 3-pointer, this one by Justin Smith, tied the game at 58-58 with 2:25 on the clock. Smith was also fouled on the 3, and nailed the free throw to complete the rare four-point play and give Newton County the lead.
Choctaw Central led once more at 60-59 on a putback from Julius Willis, but Newton County scored the next seven points to secure the win.
Al Willis led a balanced attack for the 17-11 Cougars with 18 points, while Smith scored 14, Merrell 12 and Chris Wansley nine.
Julius Willis led Choctaw Central with 18 and Beasley Willis scored nine. Tyler Williamson threw in eight points as the Warriors finished 12-18.
Kemper County boys 87, Carthage 64: The Wildcats put five players in double figures and won despite 29 turnovers.
Third-seeded Kemper got 20 points and 10 assists from James Moore and 16 points and nine rebounds from Terrance Westerfield. Chris Davis scored 13 points, Derrick Boyd had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, Kenny Boyd had 10 points and four assists, and Kendrick Gale had six points and seven steals.
The Wildcats, who are now 22-10, led 40-27 at halftime, but Carthage just wouldn't go away thanks to some red-hot shooting from Anthony Ashwood who was 4-of-8 from downtown and finished with a game-high 23 points.
Wallace Alexander added 15 points and seven rebounds and Dyrell Carson had 10 points and eight boards for the Tigers, who finished 8-20.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at