South Leake boys drop heartbreaker
March 3, 2001
By Marty Stamper
The Meridian Star
JACKSON A year ago, they met for the Class 2A state championship.
Friday night, South Leake's Wildcats and the Bulldogs of Hinds AHS clashed for the right to play for the 2001 2A title.
Hinds AHS took an 80-77 semifinal win on a controversial half-court shot as time expired to advance to the March 8 finals against the winner of today's game between Shelby-Broad Street and O'Bannon.
Friday's contest was the fourth between defending 2A state champion South Leake and Hinds AHS over the past two years with the Bulldogs leading the series three games to one. All four have been dandies.
South Leake, which trailed nearly all of the first half, squandered an eight-point lead over the final four minutes, but had drawn even at 77-77 when Chris Bloodsaw got loose for a layup with six seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Hinds got the ball inbounds to Lawrence Noel, who fired the ball from a step inside halfcourt near the right sideline under double-team pressure from Adrian Kelly and Jamal Brown as time expired. The ball swished through the net, but it appeared Mario Tyler of Hinds AHS might have tipped the ball or had a hand in the net for basket interference. No call was made as Noel's basket counted.
In the early going, it looked like the Wildcats might be on the verge of getting blown out. The Bulldogs came out hot, leading 28-16 in the first quarter before South Leake got to within 28-20 by the end of the opening period.
The Wildcats still trailed by eight, 39-31, at halftime.
Kalus Johnson led the Wildcats back in the third quarter as he scored 13 of his 18 points.
Bloodsaw gave the Wildcats their first lead since a 6-5 edge in the game's first two minutes on a basket with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Bloodsaw's shot made it 48-47 and a putback from Brown on Bloodsaw's missed free throw gave the Wildcats a 50-47 lead.
Brown added six points late in the period as South Leake grabbed a 58-54 advantage heading into the final period.
A basket by Lekendrick Fortune gave South Leake a 69-61 lead with 3:56 remaining, but with the help of some sloppy ballhandling by the Wildcats, Hinds AHS fought back to take a 74-73 lead on a wide-open layup by Tyler with 1:19 to play in the game.
A 10-foot baseline jumper by Gabriel Walton gave the Bulldogs a 76-73 advantage with 46 seconds left.
Brown pulled South Leake to within a point with two free throws with 37 seconds showing.
Samuel Richardson added a free throw for Hinds AHS with 15 seconds left and Bloodsaw's basket appeared to have the contest headed into overtime before Noel launched his game-winning bomb.
South Leake, which finished 34-3, was led by Brown's 23 points. Bloodsaw scored 14, while Kelly and Lekendrick Fortune both had nine.
Hinds AHS, 30-6, got 21 points from Noel, 15 from Walton, 13 from Tyler, 12 from Richardson, and nine from Kendall Flowers.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.