The Meridian Star
Kemper County’s Robniecha Rush wasn’t going to let anything get in her way Tuesday. Her team, especially her fellow seniors, had come too far to lose in the opening round of the District 5-3A tournament night at Southeast Lauderdale High school.
So, when No. 4 seed Newton got off to a 6-0 start against Rush and the Wildcats, she was determined to erase it.
Rush led Kemper on the night, putting up 11 of the Wildcats’ first 12 points, as No. 5 seed Kemper beat Newton 57-36 to move on to the second round. Rush finished the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“We didn’t want this to be our last game,” Rush said. “We went out and played hard. I knew if we didn’t we were out, so I just did everything I could to get this victory.”
After falling down 6-0 early, Kemper went on a 19-2 run with Rush leading the surge well into the second quarter. However, Newton battled back with another 6-1 run of its own to cut the lead to 20-14. Back and forth runs were a common sight in the game, as both teams failed to keep control of the ball, creating fast-break opportunities for their opponents.
“Turnovers were huge tonight,” Kemper County head coach Johnny Rush said. “We had to have had about 14 in the first half . That was most of our problem. To me, that’s what stopped our runs and gave them a chance to score.”
Kemper headed into the half with a 28-22 lead and would once again exchange runs with Newton in the third quarter. In the third quarter it was junior Ebone Newton who spurred the Wildcats, scoring eight straight points for Kemper midway through the third quarter. Newton finished with 14 points and eight steals on the night.
Those steals would pay dividends for the Wildcats in the fourth quarter, as Kemper slammed the door on any chance of a Newton comeback. Newton (eight steals) and Sanqueshia Windham (seven steals) kept busy picking the Tigers pockets, allowing for the Wildcats to use fast-break opportunities to close out the game. Kemper outscored Newton 20-8 in the fourth quarter to close out the win.
“If we are going to turn it over, we have to make sure we get them to turn it over, and that’s what we did,” Johnny Rush said.
Kemper goes on to face Southeast Lauderdale on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the semifinals. No. 1 Southeast is 25-1 on the season and is ranked No. 3 in the state.
“We are moving on, but we will be looking Southeast straight in the face here Thursday at 7,” Johnny Rush said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.”
At first glance the Philadelphia High School girls basketball team’s loss to Heidelberg in the first round of the District 5-3A tournament appears to be one of the team’s worst of the season.
However, considering the Tornadoes were playing without their five seniors due to violations of team rules, head coach Pashen Autry was pleasantly surprised by her team’s performance.
“Looking at what we did tonight, it’s our first time holding a team under 40 points,” Autry said. “It’s only freshmen, sophomores and juniors, so I am very proud of them. They played very hard tonight.”
Precious Sanders led the Tornadoes with six points, while Keyatta Moore chipped in four points. Autry said the win not only provided younger players with more playing minuets but also gave them an opportunity to play in a playoff atmosphere.
“They grew up a lot tonight,” Autry said. “They are used to having subs. They really showed me and themselves that they can do it this year. “
While the loss is not how Philadelphia planned on ending its season, Autry said the Tornadoes will have a lot to look forward to next year.
“I am very excited about the future,” Autry said. “We are going to be quick, were going to be smart and our basketball IQ is going to be higher. We are all going to come together, I’m excited about it.”