The Meridian boys basketball team locked up first place in District 5-6A with a 60-51 win against Hattiesburg at home on Friday night.
“Anytime you can win district and finish first that's always an accomplishment,” Meridian coach Randy Bolden said. “As far as the rest of the season, we still have to win the district tournament to advance. We just need to take it one game at a time.”
The Wildcats appeared in postseason form on the night, starting on the game on a 10-2 run. Meridian was led early on by forward Torlorf Thomas, who was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. Thomas had 11 of the Wildcats 19 points in the quarter, as Meridian went into the second quarter up by eight. Thomas finished the night with a game-high 20 points for the Wildcats.
“Coach just calls the plays, and I was open,” Thomas said. “Seeing them go in the net early on really raises my confidence.”
The Wildcats would build the lead to 12 points in the second quarter before Hattiesburg came storming back. With Meridian up 23-11, the Tigers finished the quarter on a 15-8 run, cutting the lead to three points at halftime.
Hattiesburg would not let up in the second half either, as the Tigers took their first lead at 35-34 midway through the third quarter. Much of Hattiesburg success came from its play in the paint, with the Tigers beating the 'Cats on both ends of the court. However, as the game wore on, Meridian center Dennis Miles rose to the occasion.
With the lead slipping away from the Wildcats, Miles stepped up big, scoring 11 of Meridian's first 16 points in the third quarter. Miles proved just as big on defense, corralling rebounds and not giving the Tigers any easy looks inside. Miles finished the game with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“Dennis is a force offensively and defensively for us,” Bolden said. “He did a great job on both ends of the court tonight. I think he dominated the boards and was a great offensive presence in the paint. He just did what he has been doing all year for us.”
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats would turn to their bread and butter to finish out the game. Heading into the fourth quarter up 45-41, Meridian's high-pressure defense finally proved to much for the Tigers, as the 'Cat's wore down Hattiesburg to pull away with the win.
“We predicate ourselves on working hard and not being outworked,” Bolden said. “That is our goal, we want to wear you down.”
Meridian improves to 20-5 with the win and will play Terry at home next Friday.
“These guys are starting to believe in each other,” Bolden said. “They are playing hard right now and I am proud of them.”
Meridian boys hang on to sew up first place in District 5-6A
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