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Meridian, Choctaw Central strike gold

By Staff
LEAPING TO GOLD Meridian's E. J. Hampton goes in for a layup against West Lauderdale's Marcus Ford during the gold medal round of the 2003 State Games of Mississippi. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
June 30, 2003
The constant waves of Meridian pressure proved too much for West Lauderdale on Sunday afternoon in the boys gold medal game for high school basketball at the 2003 State Games of Mississippi.
Meridian completed an unbeaten 7-0 run through the 24-team tournament to successfully defend its gold medal from 2002. Led by Jacolby Davis' 23 points, the Wildcats beat West Lauderdale 78-62 at the Ivy Sports Center at Meridian Community College.
Knights head coach Duran Clark praised his team for coming back after trailing by as many 20 points in the second half. The Knights got to within six on two occasions before Meridian went on a late run to close out the game.
Meridian head coach Ernie Watson also felt the State Games performance by his Wildcats answered some questions heading into the fall.
A big key was the guard play of Davis along with the inside toughness shown by rising junior forward Maurice Naylor.
Naylor was a force on the block converting four easy shots to help Meridian grab a 19-4 lead. A three-pointer by Davis along with 15 made free throws as a team helped the Wildcats grab a 46-28 halftime lead.
The heavy dose of free throws came as both teams were whistled for 16 fouls. Meridian's platoon approach helped spread its fouls out while the Knights were hampered with four starters having three apiece at the half.
Down 59-39 five minutes into the second half, West Lauderdale responded with its best push of the game, reeling off 14 straight points to cut the deficit to 59-53 with 4:32 to play.
Mark Ford and Daniel Huggins both made three-pointers in the stretch while Chris Sephus scored eight of his nine points.
Still down six at 61-55, the Knights had a chance to get it to four, but a missed layup opened the door again for the Wildcats. A made free throw by Chris Harris upped the lead to seven.
Then Davis anticipated a Knight pass just across half-court and went the other way for an uncontested layup and a nine-point lead with 2:49 left. Davis added a conventional three-point play following another Knight turnover 18 seconds later and that spurt pretty much settled things.
Naylor finished with 16 points while Dylan Maples added nine which included a 7-for-8 effort from the line. As a team, Meridian was 29-of-38 from the line.
The Knights, who beat Newton 60-33 to reach the gold medal game, got 16 points from Mark Ford, 13 from Huggins, 10 from Lee Nelson and nine from Sephus.
Meridian 68
Newton County 61
Meridian saw a 24-point halftime lead evaporate down to single digits in the waning seconds, but the Wildcats were able to hold on to beat Newton County 68-61 at MCC Sunday morning to reach the gold medal game.
Meridian led 40-16 at the half as Jacolby Davis scored 10 of his 15 points in the opening stanza. Maurice Naylor had 12 and Chris Harris added 11.
Newton County was led by James Broach with 17 points and Ricardo Alcanter had 11. Duke Hudnall led the late Cougar push scoring all nine of his points in the final six minutes of the game.
Newton and Newton County both received bronze medals for winning their individual pools.

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