The Meridian Star
Before this season, it had been eight years since Southeast Lauderdale had beaten rival Kemper County. Now it seems like the Tigers just can’t lose against the Wildcats.
Tuesday, Southeast Lauderdale took down defending state champion Kemper County for the fourth time this season, beating them 40-34 in the first round of the District 5-3A tournament.
“Last year, we lost to them by three in overtime in the district tournament,” Southeast head coach Centel Truman said. “That gave us hope for this year’s team. This year, we have built off that, and we have found a way to get loose balls and make shots at the end.”
Two of those key shots came from junior LaDerek Armstrong. With his team clinging to a 31-29 lead in the fourth quarter, Armstrong drained a 3-point shot in the corner to give the Tigers a 34-29 lead. Moments later, Armstrong hit another 3 at the top of the arc to put give Southeast commanding 37-29 lead.
“It was amazing last year, he was in the game and he missed those shots,” Truman said. “This year, he has enough fortitude that he can make those shots. There is a lot that comes with confidence, and I’m so glad the team has that confidence now in themselves.”
The Tigers will now move on to the second round of the district tournament where they will face Choctaw Central at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Although the two teams split games this season, both losing at home, Truman said he is glad for the opportunity to play for a berth to the district championship game in front of his home-crowd fans.
“It’s very big, especially for this program,” Truman said of the Tiger faithful. “Before I got here, I saw film at the end of some girls games where there was only seven people here. For the community to really get behind this team like they did tonight, I thank God for the energy they bring to the kids.”
For the Newton High School boys basketball team, the goal was simple –– beat Philadelphia and advance to the state playoffs.
Tuesday night, the Tigers accomplished that goal, taking down the Tornadoes and advancing to the Division 5-3A tournament semifinal round were they will meet Heidelberg 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Southeast Lauderdale High School.
“It was huge for us, because we didn’t make it last year, and we wanted to go further than that this year,” Newton head coach Robert Byrd said. “This kind of gives the seniors something to be proud of. They just wanted to go one game further than they did last year. Now, anything we get above that is gravy.”
The Tigers were led by seniors Demetrius Edwards (15 points) and Keodrick Hillie (14 points) on the night. Southeast led was in control early and would only continue to increase their lead as the game went on. A main reason for Newton’s success was its ability to tire Philly, pressing the Tornadoes on defense the whole night. After taking a 57-41 lead into the fourth quarter, the Tigers easily put away Philly in the fourth, outscoring them 18-8 to secure the win.
“We tried to man them up all over the floor,” Byrd said. “Usually that pays off in the fourth quarter, and that was the case tonight. I just think they ran out of gas.”