By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
The Meridian boys basketball team wasted no time building a 32-8 lead over visiting Lanier Tuesday night.
After that they wasted quite a bit.
With a substantial lead over the Bulldogs, Meridian head coach Randy Bolden had Wildcat guard Je'Vaughnte Harris dribble the ball the final three minutes of the third quarter.
With no shot clock, Harris took the ball in the fourth and held it again for until just under four minutes to go in the game as the Wildcats cruised to an easy 39-23 win.
Both times Lanier head coach Thomas Billups neglected to defend Harris, when applying pressure would enforce a five second heavily-guarded penalty and force the Wildcats to move the ball.
“He decided to pack it in and wouldn't come out to play,” Bolden said. “We just held the and let the clock run out. We got out to a big lead, and he just kind of threw the towel in.
“I was surprised, because normally they would fight to the end, but it was the other coaches decision, so we just took care of our business.”
The Wildcats were able to build a big lead by pressuring the visiting Bulldogs and scoring fast-break points off of turnovers. Meridian has prided itself on high-intensity defense this season, and Tuesday the Wildcats showed why some think this year's squad is poised to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We pressured them up and that's how we built the big lead,” Wildcat guard Devonte Brewster said. “We wore them out as a team. Defense is going to win it all for us.”
When the 'Cats did go into half-court sets, they relied on 6-7 big man Dennis Miles. The Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen member made a difference on both sides of the ball, recording 14 points and seven rebounds to go with three blocks.
With the win, the Wildcats improve to 4-0 on the season. Meridian will travel to Laurel on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The Meridian girls team also recorded a win Tuesday night, pulling out a 56-50 win against Lanier.
The Wildcats were led by Kayla Gordon, who came up big in the post position with 22 points on the night.
“That's what we have come to expect from her,” Meridian head coach Patricia Wilson said. “She is our bread and butter. If we can get her the ball, then good things are going to happen.”
The Wildcats struggled to put things together on offense early on in the game. Due to sloppy half-court play, Meridian frequently turned the ball over and allowed the visiting Bulldogs to score on easy buckets. After the first quarter, Lanier led Meridian 16-10.
It was the Wildcats defense that ultimately put points on the board, as Meridian swarmed the Bulldogs and forced them to make mistakes and give up easy points.
“That's the big thing for us,” Wilson said of her defense. “Our guard are quick and aggressive. If they play like that we will get some transition points.”
Another key for the Wildcats was their ability to get Lanier star-player Kierra Jordan into early foul trouble. The Bulldog post-player accumulated four fouls in the first half which prevented her from playing much of the game. Jordan ended up with only four points on the night.
“That was vet big for us,” Wilson said. “She was averaging 26 points per game. We know that she will go in there and get fouls, so our goal was to take it to her.”
Meridian improved to 5-1 with the win and will travel to Laurel on Thursday.