Meridian Star

January 5, 2013

Southeast girls hold off Quitman for title

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Saturday night, Joe Miller and the Southeast Lauderdale girls basketball team ordered the regular — a dominant post defense, solid rebounding, and, of course, a win for the Tigers.

    Southeast took down Quitman 58-51 in the Sam Dale championship game Saturday night. The victory improved the Tigers to 17-1 on the season and continued Southeast's torrid start to the 2012-13 season.

    “We are having a a good season,” Miller said. “I still feel like we could be undefeated, but those unexpected losses come sometimes. It was important for us to win this tournament in order to get back on track after losing to Gulfport earlier this season.”

    Senior post player Crystal Clay led the Tigers, taking home the MVP award after recording 21 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks on the night. Clay scored 17 of those points in the first half and was limited in the second half due to injury.

    “Clay was having some back trouble, and Denisha Knight was having some foot trouble,” Miller said. “We were just glad to be able to come out so strong in the first half with the way we played today.”

    After jumping out to a 35-15 at the half, Southeast let the Panthers creep back into the game.

    Shonte' Hailes hit a mid-court shot at the buzzer right before the half, and continued to lead the Panthers as they chipped away at the lead. The Quitman freshman led the Panthers with a game-high 22 points.

    The Panthers brought the deficit to 10 points, when Skyiesha Moss it a 3-pointer to make the score 45-35 with 7:05 left in the game. The Panthers continued to capitalize on poor Southeast ball-handling. However, they were unable to complete the comeback, as the Tigers held on for the win.

    “I never felt like we were going to get beat, but I hate to close like that,” Miller said. “I wouldn't say we dominated, but we controlled the first half pretty well. We got complacent, and made too many turnovers in the fourth quarter. I'm disappointed on how we finished, but we will fix that.”

    Southeast's duo of post players, Clay and Jasmine Bush accounted for 13 blocks on the night, while tallying 27 rebounds. The two controlled the paint most of the night and forced the Panthers to settle for jump shots throughout the game.

    “We did a good job in the post,” Miller said. “We gave up four 3s in the fourth quarter. We played the same defense we did in the first half, we just got tired. On the other side of the coin, you have got to credit (Quitman) they stepped up and made a run.”

    Tay Ruffin had a big tournament for the Tigers as well, totaling 15 points and seven rebounds on the night to follow Friday’s 25-point performance against Northeast.

    “I feel real comfortable out there,” Ruffin said. “All I got to do is play my game and I'm pretty sure I'll be good. We can be really good if we keep playing like we can.”