Kemper County wins tournament
Rocky Higginbotham/staff writer
Jan. 13, 2002
DEKALB When Charles Jackson takes his Kemper County Wildcats to Northeast Lauderdale Tuesday, he figures on seeing one fired-up bunch of Trojans who want revenge.
But between now and then, Jackson and his Wildcats have a couple of days to celebrate yet another Sam Dale Tournament championship.
Gary Griffin hit a free throw with 6.1 seconds remaining to break the game's 11th tie, then the Wildcats ran out the time to take a thrilling, 75-74 win over the Trojans in front of an overflowing home crowd.
Class 2A Kemper improved to 18-5 with the victory, while Class 4A Northeast dropped to 17-4.
Homecourt advantage wasn't the only advantage Kemper enjoyed in Saturday night's championship game, as the Wildcats out-rebounded Northeast 49-32.
But that impressive margin was necessary because the Trojans turned the ball over just seven times just once in the first half.
The Trojans opened the game with a 13-6 edge over the first three minutes, taking their biggest lead of the night.
But Kemper answered the blistering pace with eight straight points, and the packed house had a game on its hands.
Kemper was up 22-21 after one quarter, then opened the second half with a 9-2 run that made it 31-23.
The spurt was capped when Kenny Boyd grabbed a rebound for Kemper and made a one-handed baseball pass to the other end, splitting a pair of defenders for a Marques Mays layup that forced Northeast coach Lewis Lightsey into a timeout.
It was a 41-34 lead for Kemper at halftime, and the Wildcats enjoyed their biggest advantage of the night at 50-40 with 4:11 showing in the third quarter.
That's also when Northeast cranked up the defensive pressure.
The Trojans went on a 12-2 run, getting a steal and layup from Dekenno Winston and a putback from Marcus Betts that tied the game at 52-52.
It was a 54-54 game going into the fourth quarter, where Northeast led on three separate occasions.
But Kemper got four straight free throws from James Moore to go up 71-67 with 1:11 left, only to see the Trojans come back to tie it with four freebies by Stephen Dyess.
The contest was tied for the final time at 74-74 on a pair of Dyess free throws.
But Northeast was whistled for an intentional foul with 6.1 seconds showing, and Griffin answered by hitting 1-of-2 shots to give Kemper the decisive margin.
The Wildcats also got ball possession, throwing it into the backcourt where Chris Davis outran defenders as the clock ran down.
Griffin finished with 19 points to lead four Kemper players in double figures, with Terrance Westerfield scoring 14, Boyd 13 and Moore 10. Westerfield, who left with a severe ankle injury with 5:26 left, also had 10 rebounds and four assists. Boyd had nine rebounds and Griffin six, Moore handed out seven assists, Mays scored six points and RonTerrian Dale had seven points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Winston led Northeast with 20 points, while Dyess scored 19 and Jamaal Martin 15.
Betts chipped in seven points, while Dyess had six rebounds and five steals, Winston had four assists and four steals and Martin handed out three assists.