Kemper advances towards title

By By Rocky Higginbotham/Special to The Star
Feb. 20, 2002
DEKALB It's certainly true that everyone loves a winner.
But here in Kemper County, they really, really love a winner.
Three days after a packed house at Kemper Academy celebrated a girls' MPSA region title, an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 helped Kemper County's Wildcats overcome their worst offensive performance of the season.
Kemper rode the raucous home crowd and a stifling defense Tuesday night, knocking off McLaurin 42-35 in an opening-round, Class 2A Boys South State playoff game.
The Wildcats, who are now 27-6 on the season, are within one victory of making their first Boys State Tournament appearance since 1997.
Kemper's first chance at that win comes Friday at 6:30 p.m. against Bay Springs in the South State semifinals, which will be held at Taylorsville. The host Tartars and St. Joseph meet in the other semifinal game at 8 p.m., with the consolation and South State championship games set for Saturday afternoon. The top three finishers advance to the Class 2A Boys State Tournament that begins next week at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Was it ever. Kemper had to shake off a horrific shooting performance in the first three quarters to overcome a deliberate but pesky McLaurin attack.
Kemper managed just six field goals in the entire first half as the Wildcats found themselves down 19-17 at halftime, and McLaurin stretched its lead to 30-25 going into the fourth quarter.
There, it was all Kemper. While the Wildcats turned it over just once in the final period, the Tigers committed six miscues, and Kemper converted all but one of them into points.
The Wildcats tied it at 30 on a 3-pointer from Marques Mays with 6:15 left, and took the lead on another 3 from Chris Davis with 4:05 remaining.
A 3-pointer from Keith Brown tied the contest for the final time at 35-35 with 2:56 left, but that was the last time McLaurin scored. James Moore nailed 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute, and Terrance Westerfield put the exclamation point on the victory with a thunderous slam dunk with 16 seconds left capping Kemper's game-ending 17-5 run.
Moore finished with team-highs of 13 points and three assists, while Mays scored eight points. Westerfield had six points and eight rebounds and Davis also scored six points. Moore and Davis also had four steals apiece as the Wildcats forced McLaurin into 20 turnovers.
Shane Brown led McLaurin with 12 points, while Eric Brown had 10. Keith Brown had nine points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

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