Meridian Star

Sports

February 15, 2013

Breaking Through

SEL boys rally past Choctaw in division semi

MERIDIAN —     Southeast Lauderdale topped its own first act.

    After completing a season sweep of Kemper County, which the Tigers hadn't beaten in eight years, on Tuesday in the first round of the Division 5-3A tournament, the Southeast boys basketball team accomplished something even bigger Thursday. Rallying from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the Tigers stormed past Choctaw Central 54-48 and earned its first trip to a division championship game in nearly a quarter century.

    "We haven't been in a position to win a district championship in 23 years, and now they have the opportunity to do so," Southeast coach Centel Truman said. "For a program to be down, and for the kids to go through all that pain and adversity, and now they have the opportunity to do something special. And I'm proud of them."

    Getting there certainly wasn't easy. Nip and tuck throughout, the largest lead during the first three quarters was the seven point advantage Choctaw had as the third quarter closed following a late 3-pointer from Demarquis Wilson. Sandwiching buckets from Trey Lilly and Dalton Clegg around a lone Southeast free throw, the Warriors appeared ready to put the Tigers away when they went up 48-38 with 6:57 remaining.

    Southeast, though, had other ideas.

    "We rely on our defense," Truman said. "I don't have a lot of great scorers, but what we do, is we guard pretty well. We take a lot of pride on the defensive end.

    "We told them that we need to do what we do, and bring it on the defensive end. To play with intensity, and they brought it."

    Leaning on that defense, the Tigers forced turnovers on four straight possessions to help spark the rally. With its defense locking down Choctaw, Southeast efficiently attacked on offense. Following the Clegg basket that pushed the lead to double digits for the first time, Southeast answered right back when Jawhun Malone scored 19 seconds later. And the Tigers then scored on four more straight trips, getting scores from Damien Willis, Jonathan Tilman, Jake Smith and DeMario Malone to tie the game at 48 with 4:30 left.

    Southeast broke the deadlock a little more than three minutes later when Tilman beat his man for an open drive to the basket with 1:15 left. After another empty Choctaw possession, Tilman again drove to the hoop for a score with 42 seconds left to make it a two-possession game, and tying the Tigers' biggest lead of the game. 22 tacked on a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left to seal it.

    "We were running our dribble offense, our motion offense," Truman said about the back-to-back baskets from 25. "We knew that if we could get the floor spread, and keep our spacing, that we could get in the lane and finish and make baskets.

    "That's what we did. We kept the floor spread, and worked our bread-and-butter offense. I've always believed to run what the kids are most comfortable in and that's what we did."

    Southeast was led by Smith, who drilled a pair of 3-pointers in the first half on his way to a game-high 14 points. Malone added 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Tilman finished with 10. The Warriors also placed three in double figures, led by Wilson's 12 points, all coming on 3s. Clegg and Lilly each finished with 10.

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