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Wayne County sweeps Meridian

By Staff
JUMP SHOT Meridian's Mark Walker puts up a shot against Wayne County. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
Jan. 30, 2002
Wayne County has been the dominant team in East Mississippi in both boys' and girls' prep basketball action this season.
On Tuesday night, the War Eagles and Lady Eagles proved their point to Meridian by sweeping both games here before a near-capacity crowd at the Meridian Physical Education Building.
The Wayne County boys, ranked fourth in the state, held off Meridian 59-56. The win improves Coach Geary Jackson's team to 23-1.
The Lady War Eagles, ranked second, downed the Lady Wildcats 52-49. The win boosts Coach Gina Skelton's club to 26-1.
Wayne County 59
Meridian boys 56
Meridian jumped out to an 11-4 lead early in the first quarter but Wayne County clamped down with excellent man-to-man defensive pressure.
Meridian struggled the rest of the quarter and it carried into the second. It was 13-11, Wildcats, after one.
Wayne grabbed its first lead at 15-13 on a bucket by Dietric Slater. About the only good look Meridian got in the quarter was a three-pointer by Josh Walker that helped the Wildcats stay within five at 26-21 at the half.
The War Eagles extended their margin to nine early in the third quarter before settling for a 43-35 lead by quarter's end.
Meridian began the fourth quarter with its strongest surge since the opening tap. Walker hit another three-pointer to start the run. A putback by Jason Windham gave the Wildcats their first lead since the first quarter at 46-45.
The lead would switch hands four times and was tied once, the last coming at 49-49. Slater broke the tie with a driving basket, but then later picked up his fifth foul on a loose-ball reach.
With their best offensive option gone, Geary put the game into John Gray's hands. He responded by getting the ball to post players Tedric Rankins and Cedric Jones for key baskets in the final two minutes.
Two free throws by Gray iced it at 58-52 with 40 seconds to go. Slater had 17 while Rankins finished with 10. Gray and Steven Ford each had seven.
Fred Cole led Meridian with 14 points and Windom had 10.
Wayne County 52
Meridian girls 49
The Lady War Eagles made just two of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter but Meridian was unable to capitalize. A rushed three-point shot and a walking turnover hampered Coach Donald Shirley's team in the final 30 seconds.
Meridian led 25-16 in the second quarter only to see Wayne rally with a 13-2 run to close out the half and take a 29-27 lead.
It was 42-39 after three quarters despite three buckets from Valenica Hairston who had 14 points. Another basket by Hairston put Meridian up 45-44.
Carla Bartee answered for Wayne with a 10-footer. Natalie Jordan followed with another basket to keep the Lady War Eagles ahead to stay at 50-45.
Bartee had a game high 16 points. Jordan chipped in 13.
Stephanie Mosley led Meridian, now 14-10, with 15 points. Hairston and Alexis Clemons each had 14.