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Wildcats set for playoffs

By Staff
UP IN THE AIR Meridian's Stephanie Mosley passes one off against Columbus. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
Feb. 13, 2002
The Meridian Wildcats reserved themselves a ticket to the North State Class 5A playoffs by beating Travis Outlaw and his Starkville Yellow Jackets 79-63 in Tuesday night's elimination game of the Division 2-5A Tournament here at the Meridian Physical Education Building.
In other tournament games, Columbus downed the Tupelo boys 68-63 in the final meeting of those two Top 15 ranked teams. The Columbus Lady Falcons sent the Meridian Lady Wildcats packing with a 49-36 loss, while the defending 5A state champion Tupelo girls blew out Starkville 59-31.
On Friday night, Columbus, ranked seventh in the state, will meet second-ranked Tupelo for the girls' title at 6:30 p.m. The Meridian boys, now 17-10, will face third-ranked Columbus (26-2) for the boys' championship at 8 p.m.
Meridian boys 79
Starkville 63
Meridian got a big game from Jamaine Winfield and recent starting guard Josh Walker to subdue the Outlaw-led Yellow Jackets. Outlaw, a 6-foot-9 forward, is one of the top players in the state and a potential early NBA draft pick next year out of high school.
The Wildcats, though, will be the ones playing Columbus in Friday's finals.
Meridian appeared to have blown out the game taking a 20-point lead, 56-36, with 1:30 to play in the third quarter. Starkville scored the quarter's last four points to make it 56-40 going into the fourth quarter.
The Yellow Jackets opened the final stanza with a 12-2 run to close to within six at 58-52. Five points by Outlaw along with a three-point play by Jarvis Hill keyed the spurt.
Meridian forward Fred Cole, who had 17 points, said Watson gave the team a quick reminder after calling time out.
Winfield, who led Meridian with 18 points, powered in the first Wildcat bucket after the timeout. Cole added two free throws following a Starkville miss to put the Wildcats back up 10 at 62-52.
A three-pointer by Starkville's B.J. Spencer made it 62-55 but the Yellow Jackets could not draw closer. Four free throws from Keno Leflore and baskets by Winfield and Jason Windom locked up the win with 1:38 to play.
Starkville raced out to a 14-7 lead only to see Meridian score the last eight points of the first quarter to go up 15-14. Winfield had a big second quarter with nine points, including a three-pointer with one second left, to hand Meridian a 34-22 lead at the half.
Josh Walker added 13 points, including nine off three, three-pointers. Mark Walker and Windom each had seven points.
Spencer ended with 14 and Rodney Hampton had 12 for Starkville, who ends the year with a 19-13 record.
Columbus girls 49
Meridian 36
The Meridian girls, who made it to the State 5A final last year against Tupelo, won't be going back this time. Columbus made sure of that with a 49-36 win on Tuesday.
Columbus head coach Scott Talent said free throw shooting and defense were a key.
Meridian, which trailed 24-16 at the half, drew even at 28-28 on a follow-up by Valencia Hairston with 30 seconds to go in the third quarter. But a putback by Rachel Coleman gave the Lady Falcons the lead back at 30-28 at quarter's end.
Coleman then opened the fourth by hitting a three-pointer for a five-point lead. Meridian would draw back to within one at 33-32 hen Alexis Clemons scored on a two-on-one break following a good pass from Kierra Williams.
Columbus answered scoring the next 11 points to settle things. Michelle Poindexter scored two times off the block and then drew a two-shot foul on her third try. The two makes made it 41-32 with 3:46 left.
The Lady Falcons were 7-of-7 from the line in the fourth quarter and 12-of-13 for the game. Coleman had 14 points followed by Poindexter with 13 and Stephanie Spann with 11.
Hairston had 13 for Meridian while Williams chipped in nine.
Columbus boys 68
Tupelo 63
In an intensely played game, Columbus made 17-of-17 free throws in the fourth quarter to eliminate Tupelo in the first boys' game.
Jarvis Williams was a perfect 10-for-10 in the quarter and finished with 15 points to lead the 26-2 Falcons. Joseph Collins had 12 while Elecny Erby scored 10 of his points in the final quarter. Jamal Doughty also had 10.
Tupelo, who ends at 23-7, got 18 points each from Braxton Robbins and Ricky Hood.
It was 41-41 going into the final quarter, Columbus broke out to a 56-48 lead. The Golden Wave bounced back to within three on three occassions, the last coming at 62-59.
Falcon free throws and a costly walking violation with 40 seconds left sank the Wave.
Tupelo girls 59
Starkville 31
Defending 5A state champ Tupelo rolled out to a 19-2 first quarter lead and cruised into the Division 2-5A finals. The Lady Wave, now 30-1, led 40-14 at the half.
Shayla Long scored 13 for Tupelo. Tiffany Garth had 12 and Kim Larry had 10.
Tameka Chandler paced Starkville, 3-22, with 13.