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Southeast rallies past Lady Cougars

By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Dec. 12, 2001
It was another wild night of basketball action in Division 5-3A. In a match-up of two of the top girls teams in the area, Southeast Lauderdale came back from a 20-point deficit to beat Newton County 68-59.
In the nightcap, Newton County's boys rallied from a seven-point deficit with 1:40 left in regulation to force overtime. They then won it in overtime on a put back by Richard Crof and a free throw from Al Willis to take the 84-82 win.
Southeast Girls 68
Newton County 59
Never mind that the defending Class 3A champions were down 20 in the first quarter. Spurred by the guard tandem of Lesley Ruffin and Samantha Smith, the Lady Tigers ran down the Newton County girls 68-59 to take their first division win of the season here on Tuesday night at the Southeast Gym.
Newton County opened the game with a 20-2 run. Kristen Headrick hit three, three-pointers in the opening quarter to key the Lady Cougars.
The lead reached 28-8 before the first quarter settled at 28-9.
Southeast trailed 41-26 at the half but opened the second half strong with Ruffin and Smith each combining for 14 points in the third quarter. That helped tie it at 44-44 with 3:48 left in the quarter.
Dominique Mapp hit a pair of threes to answer for Newton County to make it 51-46. The quarter ended with the Lady Cougars up 53-51.
The teams were tied twice in the fourth quarter, the last coming at 55-55 on a bucket by Southeast's Ree Newell. Ruffin then made a driving three-point play to put the Lady Tigers ahead at 58-55 with 6:07 to play.
Newton County was unable to catch up.
A three-pointer by Ruffin with 3:50 left made it a six-point lead. A put back by Newell gave Southeast a nine-point lead at 66-57 with 1:50 remaining.
The loss drops Newton County to 8-4. Southeast improves to 11-3.
Ruffin finished with 20 points and Smith had 19. They were followed by Kenita Cooley with 11.
The Lady Tigers had 28 made field goals and were nine of 20 from the line.
Newton County had eight made threes and 21 total field goals. Johnson had 19 to lead the way.
Newton County 84
Southeast Boys 82
There were seven lead changes in overtime alone but it may not have gotten there had the Tigers taken better care of the basketball in the final minutes of regulation.
They were hot from the free throw line making 12 of 15 from the line in the fourth quarter.
It was 71-64 with 1:40 left when Richard Harris hit two free throws.
Newton County, 6-3, answered getting seven straight points from David Murrell to tie it at 71-all which included a three-pointer. A put back by Ken Windham made it 73-71, Cougars, but Southeast's Harris hit a runner to re-tie at 73-73 forcing overtime.
In overtime, Ben Reed hit five of six free throws to keep the Tigers above water.
His last two makes gave the Tigers their final lead at 82-81.
Crof then hit his put back with 10 seconds left. The Tigers suffered another turnover and Willis sealed it with a free throw with 2.2 seconds left.
Newton County Coach Johnny Slaughter said his team got lucky at the end.
Ben Reed tossed in a game high 31 points. He was 16 of 21 from then line. Nekemiah Nwankpah and Windham Campbell each had 13 while Harris chipped in 11.
Newton County was led by Murrell's 18 followed by Windham's 17.