By Sarah Moomaw / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
The Northeast Lauderdale boys' basketball team finally got its first win of the season and it couldn't have came in a better game. The Trojans topped heated rival Kemper County, 49-45, on Friday night in front of a large home crowd.
"It's a big rivalry between us and Kemper, whenever we play it's alway a packed house," Northeast head coach Lewis Lightsey said. "It's less than 20 miles apart, so a lot of our kids are kin to their kids, they all know each other ... I think we were a little nervous with a big crowd."
"We needed that [win] badly going into Turkey Day."
The victory moved the Trojans to 1-4 on the season. Most of their struggles have been due to being young, Lightley said. But on Friday night, he saw a glimpse of what is to come as they finally stayed out of foul trouble and began to click offensively.
"One or two of our other game this year we've been in terrible foul trouble at the guard position and that's the reason we stayed in that zone [tonight], that was probably the most key — not having all those fouls," Lightsey said. "Then we just made shots and made plays down the stretch."
Maurice Clemons led the Trojans on the floor with 20 points. Lightley said the senior had gotten off to a slow start this season, but knew with time he would bounce back.
After hitting the game winning 3-pointer with 57.8 left on the clock, safe to say he's back.
"Maurice Clemons got on fire for us, made a lot of big shots," Lightsey said. "He struggled the first four games. He hasn't made a shot it seems like, so it's really good to get him going."
The long shot from the right corner broke the seventh tie of the second half, 45-45, in a flipfloping second half that started right out of the halftime break.
"This is such a big rivalry, one team will way up and the other one will come back, back and forth," Lightsey said. "We just had to stay patient and wait until we got a chance to get a shot and believe that we'd knock it down and [Clemons] did."
Clemons was also responsible for the third quarter's opening 3-pointer to give the Trojans their first lead of the game, 29-27.
From that point, the neither side took more than a four-point lead. Northeast's Jacoby Hendrix hit a field goal to go up 43-39 with 4:10 left in regulation.
Kemper's Otis Cross quickly drew contact to earn a trip to the line and sunk both free throws to cut the lead in half before nailing an under the basket layup to tie the game, 43-43.
Clemons followed with a layup of his own while drawing contact but couldn't complete the three-point play. Cross, again, went up for the good layup but came down hard and left the the game with an apparent ankle injury and 2:04 to play, knotted 45-45. He finished the game with 16 points.
Lightsey said key defensive plays in the minute before Clemon's winning shot were huge.
"Getting a big defensive rebound when we had one, it seems like all year when we needed a stop we couldn't get it," Lightsey said. "Tonight, we were able to get that stop."
After the Clemons three, the Wildcats were unable to close the gap when Tamodre Chamberlin missed two shots — a three and jumper, which would have stolen the win in the final minute.
With 3.7 seconds left on the clock, Tre Naylor drew contact and made the first of two free throws to seal the four-point victory.
"We needed a win to realized what we've been doing works. We just got to have some confidence," Lightsey said. "For us, we have got to make shots. When we make shot, it makes everything a lot better."
The Trojans used a big second quarter offensively while also controlling the Wildcats output, outscoring the visitors 16-8 to erase a 19-10 Wildcat lead after the first quarter.
Northeast Girls 32
Kemper County 28
Earlier in the night, the Northeast Lauderdale girls' basketball team topped Kemper County, 32-28, to began the rivalry sweep.
The close end was just as close throughout the game despite a slow opening from both sides. The Lady Trojans only slimly outscore the Lady Wildcats in the first three quarters to grab the win and move to 3-2 on the season.
"Kemper is a great team, they played hard and fought. They did a good job," Northeast head coach Frederick Liddell said. "We had a lot of young kids to play, they earned [the win]. First half we should have put them away, but we made some young mistakes ... we have to work on finishing off quarters."
Shaquanta McDonald lead Northeast with 10 points. Ebone Newton was the game's high scorer, putting up 18 points for the Lady Wildcats.
The Lady Trojans took a 6-4 lead into the second quarter. With 1:04 left in the first half, she hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to nine points, 19-10, but the Wildcats came charging back.
Newton matched the 3-pointer and drew contact on a jumper in the paint to earn an extra basket, which she drained, to close the half. Her solo 6-0 run cut the Trojans' halftime lead to 19-16.
After holding onto the a four-point lead most of the third quarter as the two sides traded buckets, Kayla Wallace put the Trojans up 31-22 with 1:49 to play.
Newton didn't like the large gap and closed out the quarter with back-to-back baskets to cut the deficit to 31-26.
In the fourth quarter, Kempers' Trinity Key made the only basket of the 8-minutes, which wasn't enough to steal the win despite the Lady Trojans only gaining a point off a free throw from McDonald.
"We had serveal oppountities to score right there, we've just got to make layups," Liddell said.