The Meridian Star
The District 5-3A tournament officially started on Tuesday. However, the Southeast Lauderdale girls basketball team announced their arrival in grand fashion Thursday night, as they dismantled Kemper County 79-22 in front of a home crowd in Vimville. Southeast moves on to face Choctaw Central tonight at 7 p.m. for the District 5-3A championship.
“I’m really proud of my kids tonight,” Southeast head coach Joe Miller said. “I was really happy with the play from Timara Trussell. It’s the first time she started this year. She’s a ninth grader and did a good job on the post. I’m really happy with the way Denisha Knight played defense, we were all over the floor on the press tonight.”
Despite playing without their top post player, Crystal Clay, the Tigers did not miss a beat, placing five players in double figures. Trussell led the way for the Tigers with 18 points, 19 rebounds and five steals. Chariae Harbin also had 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Jasmine Bush (13 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks), Knight (12 points, eight assists, 10 steals) and Tay Ruffin (12 points) also played key roles for Southeast in the win.
Miller said he could have played Clay, who is nursing a injured knee, if needed and plans to play her tonight against Choctaw Central.
“We will just have to see where it goes,” Miller said of Clay. “She has an injured knee cap that has slipped out on her a couple of times, and we are just being careful.”
Southeast dominated the game from the start, using a full-court press and an energizing home crowd to wear down Kemper County. After outscoring the Wildcats 23-9 in the first quarter, Southeast went into the half with a 52-17 lead.
“We had a good crowd tonight, and they were making a lot of noise,” Miller said. “I think that made us press a little bit harder. That is the best we have run the press all year. We just kept the intensity up to were, I feel like it caused Kemper to make a couple mistakes.”
The Tigers expanded the lead to 69-19 with three minutes left in the third quarter before Kemper threw in the towel, electing to hold the ball and kill the clock on themselves for the remainder of the quarter. Play resumed in the fourth, as Southeast took out its starters and coasted to the easy victory.
Southeast will now look to beat rival Choctaw Central for the fourth time this season, as the Tigers come in 3-0 against the Warriors. While Southeast has had the Warriors’ number this season, Miller said he expects a battle anytime the two schools meet on the hardwood.
“The thing is, they are good enough to beat us,” Miller said. “It will be anybody’s ball game, and it will go to the team that comes up and makes the fewest mistakes.”
Choctaw Central 59
Despite leading throughout, the Warriors weren’t able to put the Oilers away until the third quarter Thursday in a Division 5-3A semifinal.
But Choctaw certainly buried Heidelberg there. Leading 32-21 at halftime, the Warriors got baskets from (24) and (2) to force a Heidelberg timeout with 5:08 left in the third. Coming out of that stoppage, Choctaw cranked up its pressure and proceeded to unleash a 15-0 run — including eight points in less than a minute — to pull away.
“They finally decided to get after it a little bit,” Choctaw coach Bill Smith said. “If we had decided to do that earlier I think it would have been a different story.
“We just weren’t really ready to play.”
Leading that charge was senior standout Kristen Dixon. Having already posted a double-double by halftime, she briefly flirted with a triple-double before leaving late in the third. Finishing with 21 points, 16 rebounds and seven steals, Dixon had three steals and two buckets in that spurt.
“When she makes up her mind that she wants to get after it, she’s a really good player,” Smith added.