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Southeast, Choctaw set to battle

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
March 2, 2001
If Joe Miller and Willis Tullos had their way, their girls' teams from Southeast Lauderdale and Choctaw Central could play each other for a state championship.
That's not what will happen, but either Miller or Tullos is guaranteed to reach the Class 3A title game.
Division 5-3A rivals Southeast and Choctaw lock horns for the fourth and final time Saturday night at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson in an MHSAA Class 3A semifinal that is sure to bring a packed house.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
It's hard to argue with Tullos.
Choctaw Central, seeking its fourth state championship in the last six years but its first in Class 3A brings an impressive 31-4 mark to the semifinal showdown. Southeast is 30-8 and winner of 22 of its last 24 games, with both losses coming at the hands of Tullos' Lady Warriors.
And both of those losses gave the fans plenty of action, as did the first meeting between the pair this season back on Nov. 28. That's when Southeast earned its only win in five tries in the last two seasons over Choctaw, beating the Lady Warriors 75-74.
The Lady Tigers fell behind big early and were whipped at Choctaw on Jan. 16, but not before Monique Horner went off for 48 points to make it interesting. Then, in the Division 5-3A championship game, Horner scored 56 as Southeast fell to Choctaw in a 109-99 overtime classic.
Horner the state's all-time leading scorer by more than 1,000 points with a grand total of 4,774 is the only Lady Tiger to have ever played in the Big House, and that was for one game as an eighth-grader in 1997.
To prepare for the experience, Miller said he took his team to watch Tuesday's games at the coliseum before working out later at Southern Miss.
Despite its tradition over the past few years, only two of Choctaw's players seniors Melinda Ben and Crystal Lewis have ever played in the coliseum.
But while Southeast drew a bye into the semifinals by winning the South State championship, Choctaw Central already has one game under its belt an impressive 84-50 win over Independence Tuesday.
The Lady Warriors rely on their patented press and a balanced scoring attack. Eighth-grader Chantay Frazier is averaging just under 16 points per game, while Lewis averages just over 15 and Ben 14. Deaundrea Johnson pitches in 9.0 per game, while Ferne Denson averages just better than seven.
Three-point specialist Shavon Willis averages eight points per game, while super-subs Trish Phillips (5.1), Willa Thomas (4.0) and Matilda Williams (3.9) have also contributed.
Horner, Southeast's lone senior, leads the state with a 36.1 scoring average. Lesley Ruffin is next at 11.5, while Kenitta Cooley pitches in 8.1 and Erika Ruffin 5.3.
The Lady Tigers' freshman trio of Samantha Smith (6.4), Shalonda Mitchell (5.6) and Ebony Moore (4.4) have become mainstays in the lineup during the second half of the season, as well.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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