Horner lifts Lady Tigers
By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
Joe Miller called it "as good a girls' game as you could ever see," and no one in the overflow crowd at Southeast Lauderdale could argue.
Monique Horner hit a short jumper in the lane with two seconds left in overtime, lifting her Lady Tigers to a stunning 73-71 win over Newton County in the semifinals of the Division 5-3A Tournament.
The win assures Horner and the Southeast girls of a berth in the Class 3A state playoffs, and it moves the Lady Tigers into tonight's division championship game at 6 p.m. against Choctaw Central. The top-seeded and 10th-ranked Lady Warriors beat Velma Jackson 76-65 in Thursday night's other girls' semifinal.
Southeast Lauderdale 73, Newton County 71, OT: Horner and Newton County senior forward Tamekia Foley put on quite a show for the jam-packed crowd in a classic.
Horner scored 39 points and Foley had 35, with both hitting clutch shots left and right down the stretch.
Newton County was up by eight points early and led 36-29 at halftime. But a scoring drought of 7:20 in the second half when Southeast went on a 15-0 run put the host Lady Tigers ahead 50-42 with 6:02 left.
Horner's two free throws gave Southeast a nine-point lead with just 2:35 on the fourth-quarter clock, but Newton County didn't go away. Foley's putback brought the Lady Cougars within one, then her banked-in 3-pointer with four seconds left in regulation tied the game and sent it into overtime.
There, Yolanda Johnson scored a pair of quick baskets, and Newton County was up 69-65 with two minutes left.
Lesley Ruffin's steal and layup pulled the Lady Tigers within two, then a Kenitta Cooley basket tied it.
Horner's steal and jumper with 28 seconds left put Southeast ahead, but Foley answered right back with a jumper at the other end to tie it with 15 seconds on the clock. Horner took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the floor, popping the game-winner with just two ticks remaining.
In addition to her 39 points, Horner also had 12 rebounds, eight assists and eight steals for Southeast, which improved to 27-7. The Lady Tigers have won 19 of their last 20 games, with the only loss coming at Choctaw Central.
Ruffin added 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Cooley had 10 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Samantha Smith scored nine for Southeast and had three steals and Ebony Moore had seven rebounds.
Foley's monster night included 35 points, 21 rebounds, four steals and four blocked shots. Kristin Chaney had seven 13 points, five assists and five steals, Johnson had 10 points and nine rebounds and April Bufkin seven points, nine rebounds and four assists. Lakelia Bogan, who scored six points, also grabbed 17 rebounds for Newton County which outrebounded Southeast 66-43 but saw its season come to an end at 27-5.
Choctaw Central 76, Velma Jackson 65: The Lady Warriors, inadvertently locked in the dressing room before the game, dug themselves an 11-point hole in the first quarter before catching fire.
Choctaw Central went on a 24-2 run in the second quarter and held a 34-23 lead at halftime.
The Lady Warriors, who are now 27-3, led by as many as 17 points late, but a flurry of 3-pointers by the Lady Falcons kept things close.
Melinda Ben scored 18 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, had five assists and three steals for Choctaw Central, while Deaundrea Johnson scored 17 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals. Crystal Lewis added 16 points and five assists and Chantay Frazier had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Letyshea Murry led Velma Jackson with 22 points, and she also had nine rebounds and five steals. Katunia Levy scored 21 and had eight rebounds as the Lady Falcons finished 22-9.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.