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Newton County takes two from Southeast

By By Rocky Higginbotham/Special to The Star
Jan. 30, 2002
DECATUR On paper, Tuesday night's Division 5-3A contest between Newton County and Southeast Lauderdale appeared to be a mismatch.
After all, the host Cougars were coming off back-to-back wins and seemed primed for the season's stretch run; while Southeast was seeking just its fifth victory of the year and without leading scorer Ben Reed.
But as we all know, basketball games aren't played on paper.
Newton County spent most of the night playing from behind before a 7-0 run in overtime helped the Cougars knock off the Tigers 78-75.
Newton County's girls were also victorious, knocking off Southeast in a wild 74-70 affair.
In the boys' game, back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first period put Southeast ahead 12-9, and the Tigers didn't trail again until the final seconds of the third period.
Five straight points from Lapatrick Carlisle pushed the Tigers ahead 58-55 with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter, and the lead changed hands four times before a chaotic finish.
A 3-pointer from Al Willis put Newton County up 66-64, then two free throws from Nehemiah Nwankpah tied it for Southeast with just 1:10 left. The teams swapped turnovers, and Newton County called timeout with 35.9 seconds on the clock.
The Cougars went into a spread offense that worked to perfection, as Willis laid the ball off to Tony Smith for a basket that made it 68-66.
Southeast called timeout with only 2.5 seconds showing. Nwankpah's baseball pass went nearly the full length of the court and the Tigers missed a 15-foot jumper. But Richard Harris' putback beat the buzzer, sending the contest into overtime tied at 68-68.
There, there were four lead changes, as well, with Southeast taking its final lead at 72-71 on a Carlisle bucket with 2:14 remaining. Newton County scored the next seven points, taking the lead on a steal and layup from Willis that resulted in an old-fashioned three-point play.
Two free throws from Mylan Anderson with 15.9 seconds left in the extra period sealed the win for the Cougars, who are now 12-10 overall and 5-4 in 5-3A.
Smith led all scorers with 27 points, 18 of them coming in the second half after the 6-foot-7 senior started the game on the bench. Willis and Del Merrell chipped in 16 apiece for the Cougars, while Anderson scored seven.
Carlisle and Nwankpah tallied 24 points apiece to lead the Tigers, who got 15 points from B.B. Brassfield and six from Harris.
Newton County 74
Southeast girls 70
These schools have had some classic girls' battles in the last few years, and Tuesday's game added another chapter.
Unlike earlier this season, however, it was Newton County that overcame a big first-half deficit.
The Lady Cougars trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but finished the second quarter with 11 consecutive points to pull within 34-33.
Newton County tied it at 40 and took the lead at 47-46, both on baskets from Kristin Chaney. Putbacks from Phyllis Cole and Andrea Dubose sparked a 20-4 run that handed the Lady Cougars their biggest lead at 67-50 with just 4:36 remaining in the contest.
Southeast scored 20 points in the last 4:36, however, including six in a span of 23 seconds. The final basket in that run was a steal and layup from Lesley Ruffin that made it 72-69 with 37 seconds remaining.
The Lady Tigers even got as close as 72-70 on a single free throw from Ruffin with 19.4 ticks showing, and had ball possession after Kenitta Cooley stole the inbounds pass. But a 3 from Ruffin fell short and Newton County rebounded, and the Lady Cougars got a pair of freebies from Yolanda Johnson at the other end to seal the win.
Samantha Smith scored 23 points to lead Southeast, while Ruffin put up 14 in the second half and finished with 18. Ree Newell had 11 and Cooley eight as the Lady Tigers fell to 21-7 and 5-5.
Newton County got its second straight 5-3A upset by outrebounding Southeast 22-13 in the second half. The Lady Cougars also got a game-high 26 points from Cole and overcame 10 turnovers in the final eight minutes.
Johnson finished with 11 for Newton County, while Kristen Hedrick scored 12, Chaney nine, Dubose seven and Dominique Mapp seven.