With four starters out, Southeast Lauderdale dropped its first MHSAA Region 5-3A contest of the season Tuesday against Kemper County, 78-68.
Eli Walker, Demondre Graham, Travis Moore and Roman Hudnall were all still unavailable when the Tigers hosted Raleigh on Friday, but Southeast was still able to jump out to a 21-5 lead after one quarter of play and continue dominating while giving the backups significant minutes.
The Tigers won 73-14, and head coach Centel Truman said he was proud of two things: how his team responded to Tuesday’s loss, and how the roster stepped up with several key players sidelined.
“We had a tough loss against Kemper, and anytime you have a group of kids with senior leadership, you’re anxious to get them back in the gym because you know they’re going to step up and get the others to step up,” Truman said. “We have a great group of kids that are seniors who are leading the way.”
Seniors Joshua Randle and Travis Ruttley led the way at the start of the contest, as Southeast went on a 12-0 run to open the game thanks to seven points by Randle and five points by Ruttley. The Lions didn’t hit a field goal until 4:17 left in the opening frame, and by then, Truman has begun subbing in his bench.
Randle had a game-high 16 points to lead the Tigers, with all of his playing time coming in the first and third quarters. Ruttley added 10 points, but it was freshman Derrius Ramsey who seemed to draw the biggest response from the Tigers faithful. The tall, lanky freshman finished with 15 points, and one of the loudest moments in the game came with 53 seconds left in the second quarter when Ramsey attempted to dunk an alley-oop but was fouled on the exchange and couldn’t sink the basket. Ramsey showed emotion after the foul, off which the crowd fed.
“If I had made it, it probably would have been overtime,” Ramsey joked. “I was excited.”
Ramsey made one of two of the ensuing free throws and later got a basket off an offensive rebound with 19 seconds left in the second quarter that also got the crowd excited.
“He’s starting to mature a little bit,” Truman said of Ramsey. “He’s a ninth grader, and he’s starting to grow into his body. He’ll admit he was very clumsy at first, but now he’s starting to grow into himself and starting to understand what’s going on — the speed of the high school game.”
Fellow freshman Kwamaar O’Neal finished with 12 points, and Ramsey also finished with two blocks. Truman said the extended playing time his bench received gave him a nice preview of next season, and he hopes they can continue to step up in the heart of their divisional schedule.
“My future looks bright,” Truman said. “We have four starters out, so right now we’re just trying to find strength in numbers.”
While it’s difficult being without most of their starting lineup, Ramsey said he and his teammates have tried to make the best of things, and Friday’s game was a good building block as they await the return of their leaders.
“This team pushes me hard,” Ramsey said. “If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Southeast (15-8, 6-1) will play at Clarkdale Tuesday before returning home for senior night next Thursday against Morton. The Tigers also host Kemper County next Friday in a makeup game.