Four area hoops teams still alive
BIG SAVE Meridian High School's Mark Walker (24) makes a diving save against Hattiesburg in earlier action in the MHSAA State Tournament. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/EMG sports assistant
March 4, 2002
After the first week of competition in the annual two-week MHSAA State Tournament, only four area teams are still alive in their quest for a state basketball championship.
Two of those teams take to the court tonight with the other two set to play on Tuesday.
The Wayne County Lady War Eagles, 33-1, make their first appearance, not only of this year's tournament but in school history, tonight at 6:30 when they put a 30-game winning streak on the line against Columbus, 29-5. The Lady Falcons defeated Moss Point 51-39 in quarterfinal action on Feb. 26, while Wayne County had a first-round bye as 5A South State champion.
Leading coach Gina Skelton's Lady War Eagles are 5-foot-9 sophomore Ratassia Worsham, 5-foot-10 seniors Natalie Jordan and Nicole Jordan, and 5-foot-10 junior Dandy Dozen pick Carla Bartee.
Skelton has a 477-180 record in 22 seasons that include stops at Carthage and Forest.
The Meridian Wildcats, 21-11, play Harrison Central, 18-9, in tonight's 8 p.m. contest. Meridian knocked off Hattiesburg 65-61 in opening-round state tournament play on Feb. 26, while Harrison has been idle since handing Gulfport its only loss of the season with a 55-35 shocker in the 5A South State championship game on Feb. 23.
In the win over Gulfport, 6-foot-2 senior Fred Kennedy scored 16 points, 5-foot-7 junior guard Jerrill Beard had 14, and 6-foot-9 senior Byron Sanders had 11. Sanders has committed to the University of North Carolina.
Having one game in The Big House under their belt could be an advantage for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats and Red Rebels met in the Quitman Invitational Tournament on Nov. 17 with Meridian taking an 82-79 victory.
Sanders didn't cause Meridian that many problems in the first meeting.
Meridian has gone to state twice in Watson's three years as coach after not going from 1986-1999.
Leading the Wildcats are Keno LeFlore, Jason Windom, Fred Cole, Jamaine Winfield, Matthew Gonzalez, Theo Naylor, Mark Walker, E.J. Watson, and Quann Carlisle.
The West Lauderdale Lady Knights find themselves in the same situation as the Wayne County girls and Harrison boys as they haven't played since winning the Class 3A South State Tournament on Feb. 23.
The 32-4 Lady Knights take on Ripley, 27-6, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Ripley defeated Greene County 62-47 on Feb. 27 in first-round Class 3A state play.
The Lady Knights have been practicing in big gyms to get ready for the Coliseum.
Hurst got to scout Ripley's win over Greene County.
Claudia, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, has signed with the University of Central Florida. She had 28 points in the victory over Greene County and was 9-of-10 at the free-throw line.
Hurst believes Ripley's game at The Big House is an advantage for the Lady Tigers.
Hurst usually plays 5-foot-10 senior JaWanda Huggins, 5-foot-10 junior J.J. Huggins, 5-foot-9 junior Kristina Gardner, 5-foot-5 junior Patty Monroe, 5-foot-8 sophomore Cierra Jennings, 6-foot-2 sophomore Shannon Lloyd, and 5-foot-6 junior Amy Frazier in every game.
West is making its first appearance at the state tournament since 1991, while Ripley's last previous venture was in 1990.
The Heidelberg Oilers, 30-7, face Jefferson County, 20-11, Tuesday at 8 p.m. They previously met in the Class 3A South State semifinals with Jefferson taking a 67-61 double-overtime win behind 21 points from Delvin Thompson.
Heidelberg got a last-second putback basket from 6-foot-4 senior Fred Stephens to beat Amanda Elzy 60-59 in first-round action on Feb. 27.
Other top players for the Oilers are 6-foot junior Joe Agee, 5-foot-10 senior Jessie Jones, 6-foot senior Marvin McDonald, 6-foot-4 senior Cedric Pierce, 6-foot-5 senior Derrick Turner, and 6-foot-2 senior Billy Wright.