Lady Wildcats can't find answer for Tupelo
By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
March 10, 2001
JACKSON On the grand stage, the stars shine bright, even if it takes them a while.
Tan White shook off a poor performance in the opening three quarters of the Class 5A Girls State Championship game to heat up in the final five minutes and hand the Meridian High Lady Wildcats a 56-42 title game defeat.
White used her trademark silky-smooth drives to the basket and pull-up jumpers to total 28 points, but the performance through the first three plus quarters was one that could hardly be characterized as legendary.
The only problem was, Meridian wasn't able to capitalize.
White shot a measly 5-of-20 through that period of time, but Meridian was never able to build a lead better than six points.
Tupelo (32-2) did forge that lead early on at 13-7, but the Lady Cats slowly got back into it with an 11-4 run that was capped by Kanecia Williams' layup with 4:22 to go in the second.
The Lady Wildcat defense held THS scoreless for a five minute period that bridged the first and second quarters.
But the Tupelo D' was also tough, never allowing MHS to gain too much momentum.
But MHS center Cantea Brown, who paced the Lady Cats with 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks, hit a turnaround jumper with 2:05 to go in the first half to give MHS a 20-19 lead.
Surprisingly, that's the way it stayed.
In the third quarter the offensively-slow contest continued with the teams swapping the lead back and forth.
Brown and White each hit big buckets, but Kanecia Williams made 1-of-2 free throws at the 3:05 mark of the third to pull MHS to within 29-28. Tupelo extended the lead to 32-29 before Kim Larry, who finished with nine points and ten rebounds, traded baskets with Chelse Alford to give the Lady Waves a 34-32 lead going into the final frame.
Alford, who finished with eight points, eight rebounds and five assists, was rarely allowed to get off any of her 3-point shots.
Meridian left a total of four points at the free throw line in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
But a quick three-point play from Chandra Collier gave the Lady Wildcats their last lead of the night (36-34) with 6:22 left.
It was here that White and company stepped it up, running off a 10-4 stint in the span of three minutes.
White's steal of the inbounds pass and ensuing layup was her third score in the Lady Wave run and even though the lead was 46-40 with 3:13 left after an Alford answer, it seemed as if the Lady Wildcats' life had been snuffed out.
Another 10-2 run by the Lady Waves provided the final margin, and for the seventh consecutive year, Shirley would have to stand by and watch someone else cart home the gold ball.
Tupelo had only 11 turnovers to the Lady Cats' 22.
The Lady Waves outrebounded MHS 41-37. Williams put in 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.