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Wildcats win 2OT thriller

By By Austin Bishop/EMG regional sports director
Feb. 16, 2002
To say Meridian High School's 78-76 double-overtime win over Columbus in the boys finals of the Division 2-5A Tournament meant a lot to the Wildcats would be an understatement.
The players celebrated wildly at halfcourt and were joined by cheerleaders and fans, as the Falcons of Columbus ranked No. 3 in the state helplessly looked on.
The win not only gave MHS the division title, but also landed the Wildcats a home game in the first-round MHSAA State Tournament on Tuesday.
While the win was a big one for the Wildcats, it certainly didn't come easy.
Columbus' Jarvis Williams hit two free throws with 16.8 seconds left to tie the game at 61-61 and send it into overtime, while Meridian's Jamaine Winfield knocked down a three-pointer with one second left in overtime, to send the game to a second extra period.
That it was.
Columbus took a 76-73 lead with 1:01 left in the second overtime thanks to a pair of free throws by Jarvis Williams. The Wildcats, now 18-10 on the season, answered with a three-pointer by Winfield to tie the game with 33.4 seconds left.
After Williams missed a pair of free throws just seconds later, MHS took possession of the ball for one last shot. Jason Windom made it count by driving in strong to the hoop for a point-blank banker with seven seconds left.
Before Columbus could get the ball in-bound and a time out called, the clock ran down to four seconds left.
Watson said he was pretty sure who the Falcons, now 26-3 on the season, would go to for the last shot of the game.
Meridian managed to do that, but CHS managed to get up one shot and a put back before the horn sounded, but neither found its mark.
While the Wildcats struggled at the free throw line early in the game, MHS was deadly down the stretch, while the Falcons fluttered.
Meridian hit all four of its free throws in over time two each from Windom and Fred Cole and 9-of-10 in the fourth quarter.
Meridian led 17-15 at the end of the first quarter and 30-27 at the half.
It looked like the Wildcats were going to take over the game early in the second half, as MHS scored the first six points of the third quarter to go up 36-27 with 6:27 showing on the clock.
But Columbus' Johnson, a sharp-shooting guard, took over the game knocking down three three-pointers and a two as Columbus took a 41-39 lead with 1:10 left in the third.
Johnson finished the night with eight three-pointers and 26 total points.
Williams scored 13 points for Columbus, while Jamaal Doughty tossed in 10.
Fred Cole led Meridian with 22 points, while Winfield scored 14, Windom 12 and Theo Naylor 10.
Meridian will host either Horn Lake or Olive Branch Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Tupelo won the girls championship with a 57-48 win.