Round 4 to the Lady Tigers
By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
March 4, 2001
JACKSON For seven bucks per two-game session, many of the games in the state basketball tournament turn out to be a gyp.
Not so for Southeast Lauderdale-Choctaw Central Round 4.
But what else would you expect after the first three battles saw a 75-74 Lady Tiger win followed by 91-78 and 109-99 Lady Warrior victories.
The final battle between the two saw Southeast claim a 72-67 win in the semifinals of the Class 3A state tournament Saturday night before a crowd estimated at a little over 6,000.
The win gives Southeast its first berth in the state finals since the 1988 Lady Tigers lost 69-55 to Port Gibson for the 3A state crown.
Southeast will play the South Pontotoc-Hazlehurst winner on March 9 at 1 p.m. for the 2001 3A state title.
Choctaw Central started fairly hot and led 15-6 with 3:03 left in the first quarter behind seven points from Ferne Denson.
Southeast rallied to within 15-14 when Monique Horner buried a 3-pointer at the end of the first period after missing her first five field goal tries.
Neither team subbed in the first quarter in the muggy Mississippi Coliseum.
Southeast took a 16-15 lead on a basket from Ebony Moore with 6:10 to go in the second period, but the Lady Warriors got on another roll and took their biggest lead of the game at 33-23 in the final 80 seconds of the first half.
Southeast trailed 33-25 at intermission with the Lady Warriors holding Horner to nine points on a 2-of-12 showing from the floor.
The third period, however, would belong to Mississippi's all-time career scoring leader as she racked up 15 of Southeast's 23 points to enable the Lady Tigers to go up 48-46 with eight minutes remaining.
A 3-pointer from Erika Ruffin with 6:47 left upped Southeast's lead to 53-46.
A 3-pointer from Lesley Ruffin gave the Lady Tigers a 59-50 lead with 5:27 remaining.
Southeast led by seven (67-60) with 1:53 to go before the Lady Warriors staged one final comeback bid.
A 3-pointer from Crystal Lewis and a two-point basket from Willa Thomas narrowed the deficit to 67-65 with 1:27 still to be played.
Horner took over at that point, parading to the free-throw line six times where she made five shots to keep the Lady Tigers out of disaster's reach.
The Lady Warriors, meanwhile, missed three field goal attempts and did not score again.
Horner led Southeast, 31-8, with 36 points that included an 11-of-26 showing from the floor and an 11-of-13 effort at the free-throw line. She also had 11 rebounds, seven assists, and six steals.
Lesley Ruffin had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Southeast. Moore had 11 points and 14 rebounds. Kenitta Cooley had nine points and 12 rebounds. Erika Ruffin had four points.
Southeast had 58 rebounds to 46 for the Lady Warriors with a dismal 4-of-21 showing from 3-point range playing a huge role in the Lady Warriors' downfall.
The Lady Warriors, who finished 31-5, got 20 points from Melinda Ben, 12 from Chantay Frazier, 10 from Lewis, eight each from Trish Phillips and Shavon Willis, and seven from Denson.
The 3-point shooting woes didn't escape Choctaw Central coach Willis Tullos.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.