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Quitman headed to South State playoffs

By By Scott Walters/staff writer
Feb. 15, 2002
LAUREL This time, the Northeast Jones boys basketball team found the hole too deep.
Another slow start doomed the Tigers in the semifinal round of the Division 5-4A Tournament. Northeast trailed by 12 midway through the first quarter, eventually falling 53-48 to the Quitman Panthers at Tiger Gym.
In the other semifinal, Northeast Lauderdale eliminated West Jones 97-80. Quitman and Northeast Lauderdale play at 7:30 tonight for the division title. NEL will be trying to complete a four-game season sweep of its division rival. Each team secured a south state playoff spot with Thursday nights victories.
Quitman boys 53
Northeast Jones 48
Quitman coach Steve Hampton never lost faith in his Panthers.
Indeed, the Panthers stood tall. Quitman scored the game's first eight points. Northeast never tied or led in the game. Still, the teams concluded a hard-fought battle with a tight finish.
A Sean Woodland putback brought the Tigers within 47-43 with 2:15 left. Woodland also made the big play on the defensive end with a block of Quitman's Lonnie McGee.
Woodland fired the rebound upcourt to Kevin Duckworth, who drilled an off-balance 3-point shot from the top of the key. Duckworth, the team's leading scorer, managed only a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 11 points. Still this shot brought Northeast within 47-46.
For Northeast, Duckworth could not find the rhythm again and McGee bagged a critical rebound with 43 seconds left in regulation.
The Tigers fouled and McGee answered with a pair of free throws.
For Northeast, Josh Johnson answered with an uncontested dunk. This score brought the hosts within 49-48 with 23 seconds left. Down 51-48, a final shot to tie saw Julius McGruder miss an off-balance 3-point attempt with nine seconds left in regulation
Northeast failed on its final six shots from the floor, as Quitman got a pair of free throws from both Jason Pearson and Jermel Thigpen to seal the victory.
Third-seeded Quitman improves to 12-14. The Panthers reach the south state playoffs for the first time since 1998. Second-seeded Northeast Jones ends the season at 18-12.
NE Lauderdale boys 97
West Jones 80
The Northeast Lauderdale Trojans have earned a south state playoff berth for the first time since the MHSAA shifted to its present five-class system in the fall of 1984.
The top-seeded Trojans and fifth-seeded Mustangs put on quite an offensive show. West Jones' Andrea Galiazzo, an exchange student from Italy, closed his prep career with a 36-point performance. NEL junior De'Kenno Winston matched Galiazzo stride for stride, pouring in 35 points.
Northeast Lauderdale built a 21-15 lead after one quarter. Marcus Betts helped fuel a 10-2 run to open the second quarter.
The Trojans opened a double-digit lead and maintained that advantage throughout the second quarter. A couple of late scores by Galiazzo allowed the Mustangs to trail 40-31 at the intermission.
West Jones closed within 55-50 midway through the third quarter. Rico Keyes had a couple of steals and also hit a couple of jump shots during that run. Winston answered with one of his four 3s as the quarter expired with the Trojans on top 61-53.
In the closing period, West Jones got no closer than that eight-point deficit on three different occasions. Winston scored 16 of his team's 36 points in the final quarter.
Northeast Lauderdale improved to 24-6. Betts finished with 18 points, while Kalani White had 16 points. Jamaal Martin added 13 points. Winston is a 6-foot-1 junior. White and Betts are also juniors. Martin was one of five seniors on the squad.