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Playing hard pays off for MCC

By Staff
OVER THE TOP Meridian Community College's Sammie Cole (12) goes up for a jump shot against Jones County's Chris Keyes (14), Thursday. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Austin Bishop/The Meridian Star
Dec. 7, 2001
Meridian Community College men's basketball coach George Brooks knows full well that his team had its chances to put visiting Jones County Junior College away early, before holding on for an 89-85 win.
He knows his team only made one-of-seven free throws down the stretch as the 5-3 Bobcats made a run at the Eagles at the Ivy Sports Center on Thursday night.
He also realizes that his Eagles, who are now 8-5 on the year, failed to protect the ball in key situations.
But despite all of that, he was very pleased with the way his team pulled out the gritty four-point win.
"I think for the most part we played hard," Brooks said. "We didn't play smart all of the time, but we played hard and sometimes that compensates for a lot. We didn't play with that kind of effort last year."
The win was the second in a row for MCC, after a stretch where the Eagles lost four of five games. Next up for Meridian is a home game against Bevill (Ala.) State on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m.
MCC sophomore guard Sammie Cole, who led both teams in scoring with 21 points, said his team's failure to take control of the game brought back some bad memories.
"That is characteristic of what we did last year," he said. "We will get on top of people and let them come back in the end."
But he also said this game had a lot of meaning for the Eagles.
"We needed this game to show these people around here that we are one of the better teams in the state," he said.
Each time Meridian would build up a little lead, the Bobcats would come back, but Jones couldn't take control of the game either as turnovers bit the visitors time after time.
"Five out of six of the turnovers that came in crunch time were made by freshmen," said Jones coach Robert McInnis. "I don't know how you are going to fix that except with experience. We are going to give them time and we are going to work hard and hopefully don't make those mistakes when it comes conference time."
The Eagles had a 65-55 lead with 10:44 to go and seemed about ready to cruise the rest of the way in.
But the Bobcats came charging back behind strong inside play by Lee Kilpatrick, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half.
Jones tied the game at 65-65 on a bucket by Timothy Evans with 8:01 left to play.
That's when one of Meridian's unsung heroes stepped to the forefront.
Sophomore guard Joey Wade worked his way inside with the big guys and put back an offensive rebound to put the Eagles up by two.
After a free throw by MCC's Ricardo Kelly and a three-pointer by Jones' Nick Paige knotted the game back up at 68-68, Wade came through with a three-point play with 5:53 left in the game to make it 71-68. The Eagles never lost the lead again.
"He is just such a winner and plays with so much heart that you have got to have him out there in the end," Brooks said of Wade, who scored seven of his nine points in the second half.
MCC went on to build that lead to 78-70, before JCJC scored five straight points to cut it to three.
Then it became a fouling game, with Jones sending MCC to the line. When Cole hit a free throw with 37.1 seconds left to make it 87-80, it seemed like the Eagles had control of the game.
But Jones fought back to cut it to 87-85 with less than 10 seconds left on a three-pointer by Jermaine Sherman, who led Jones with 14 points.
MCC's Derrick Houston closed the win out with a slam dunk with two seconds left.
Robert Ivy scored 20 points for the Eagles, with 16 of those coming in the first half, while Houston added 15.
Four Jones players finished in double figures. Chris Keyes had 13, while Rashaune Walters hit for 12 and Lee Kilpatrick added 10.