By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Leake Academy is what Lamar School thought it was.
The top-ranked Rebelettes used the same formula they have all season — pressure defense and relentless rebounding — to run Lamar ragged Friday night, topping the Raiders 70-35.
“From scouting reports, that’s what we’ve been getting all year — they’re forcing turnovers and owning the offensive boards,” Lamar coach Russell Cruise said. “We fell victim just like everybody else did.”
That formula was especially on display early as Leake turned the showdown between state-ranked MAIS Class AA foes into a blowout. LA, which improved to 19-0, forced 10 Raider turnovers in the first quarter and pulled down five offensive rebounds in the period. That helped spark an early onslaught that Lamar was unable to overcome.
“I thought we kind of pushed the pressure to them early and they had several turnovers, and off those turnovers we just ended up with more shots,” Leake’s legendary coach Doyle Wolverton said. “I think they ended up shooting 40 times and we shot it 78 times, and when you do that most of the times you’re going to win.
“I thought we did a really good job of that tonight and even the second group, when they came in, were able to get a bunch of offensive rebounds.”
Helped by two early offensive boards and a few Lamar miscues, Leake led 8-0 less than two minutes in with Hannah Peoples hitting a 3-pointer and the Rebelettes also getting three second-chance points.
Leake pushed its lead to as much as 22 points in the second quarter as the Rebelettes enjoyed a balanced attack. Four of the five LA starters finished in double figures, led by Mary Grace Key’s 18. Anna Kat Nowell added 14 points along with eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals, while Hannah Moore scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds.
Peoples finished with 10 points, all in the first half. Chloe Thaggard, the lone starter, not to break into double digits, finished with eight and 14 rebounds.
“You can get much better balance than that,” Wolverton said.
Added Cruise: “They can all shoot and they don’t worry about missing. They run their lanes so well, and are so well-coached.”
Lamar, which fell to 16-3, was led by Natalie Williams’ 14 points, while Olivia Mabry finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Raiders, who are ranked No. 6 in the AA rankings by the High School Sports in Mississippi Website and No. 3 according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Lamar visits reigning MAIS Overall state champion and AAA top-ranked Starkville Academy today.
“They are the best of the best,” Cruise said. “The pressure we saw tonight and what we’ll see tomorrow, it should prepare us for conference. We won’t see anything like this again for awhile, so we shouldn’t be rattled by anything we see in conference.”
Leake Aca. 66
Lamar boys 43
The Raiders overcame a sluggish start — they trailed 19-4 after the first quarter — to pull close at halftime. However, the second half belonged to the visiting Rebels.
Lamar, which never led, used an 11-0 run midway through the second quarter to start making the game interesting. Leake led 25-9 after a Thomas Tubby basket with 5:35 left in the half. When he scored again with three minutes left before the break, the Rebels’ lead was cut to 27-20.
Jonathan Young had a pair of buckets during that streak. Lamar continued to attack to finish out the half, closing within 29-27 at the break as Young scored with four seconds left in the quarter.
However, Lamar wouldn’t get any closer as Leake opened the third on a 9-2 run and outscored the Raiders 21-4 in the period.
Tubby led Leake with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Alex Sheppard added 18 points and Chipper Jones scored 13.
Lance Strickland led the Raiders, who fell to 8-7, with 14. Young finished with eight points and 15 rebounds, and Brett Shaffer also had eight.