By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
It was a long time coming for Northeast Lauderdale.
After winning their Division 5-4A opener last season, the Trojans lost their final nine. And following an 0-2 start to district play this season and Northeast needed to break that skid in a bad way Tuesday night. And the Trojans did just that, using momentum from the Sam Dale tournament and a physical style host West Lauderdale couldn't match for a 52-43 win.
“It's been awhile since we had a district win,” Northeast coach Lewis Lightsey said. “We kind of feel like that monkey's off our back a little bit now and the kids really earned it. They played so hard.
“I thought we were able to build off Saturday night's game a little bit with how we were aggressive defensively and attacking the basket. And we got off to that good start.”
The Trojans (13-6, 1-2) looked like they were ready to end that streak from the beginning in Collinsville as they forced two quick turnovers and went on the attack in grabbing a 7-2 lead just 160 seconds into the contest. Henry Anderson was the catalyst to that start as he had a pair of steals and a layup to put Northeast up 2-0. James Roberts then hit a pair of free throws following a West technical and after K.D. Edmonds pulled the Knights within 4-2, Tre Naylor drilled a 3-pointer.
However, the Knights (12-3, 1-2) battled back through foul trouble – West was whistled for nine fouls in the opening period – to take an 11-10 lead when Vince Watkins hit the first of two free throws with 1:32 left in the first quarter. It was short-lived though as Northeast regained the lead on three Maurice Clemons free throws for a 13-11 lead after one. The Trojans then kept attacking, building their advantage to 25-13 midway through the second.
“They just physically whupped us,” West coach Duran Clark said. “That's what we were just talking about in here, they were just more physical than us. That's how people are going to play now and they just physically manhandled us.”
West again rallied, using a 10-0 run that was sparked by six Northeast turnovers in a seven possession span, to close within 2. Edmonds, who led the Knights with 16, had six points in the spurt.
“We got into a little foul trouble there the second quarter and it slowed us down,” Lightsey said.
Northeast, though, had the answer. The Trojans went back to work, physically wearing on West with Anderson and Va'Doll Peebles. Peebles, who had no points and just one rebound at the break, made his presence felt early and often after intermission. Finishing with 10 points and eight boards, Peebles four times scored on putbacks, including at the third quarter buzzer to put Northeast up 40-35. He also scored two straight trips in the fourth to extend the lead to 48-41.
In all, Peebles and Anderson combined to score Northeast's final 20 points and 20 of the Trojans' 23 after halftime – Roberts, who finished with nine points, drained a 3 to start the third quarter.
“They hurt us on the inside and every time we'd make a run, they'd go back to that physicality,” Clark said. “They would get the loose ball and they would get the offensive rebound.
Added Lightsey: “I thought James really controlled the game well and got us into some good looks and then Henry and Va'Doll made some big shots in the paint and kind of carried us late.
“We really talked about and worked on that because West Lauderdale is so good at rebounding the basketball with the big guys they've got. ”
Northeast outrebounded West 37-25, although J.D. Williams had 10 rebounds to go along with nine points for the Knights, who also got eight points from Watkins.
Northeast Lauderdale 45
West Lauderdale girls 39
Twice in the final quarter, the Knights pulled within a point of Northeast and both times the Trojans had the answer.
After Northeast's Dana Logan hit a free throw on the first possession of the fourth quarter to push the Trojans' lead to 38-31, West scored six straight with Keke Martin scoring on two straight trips and Mallory Thompson scoring off an offensive rebound with 4:42 remaining to bring the Knights within one.
Logan answered right back for Northeast and after Thompson again pulled West within a single point with 3:19 left, the Trojans had an immediate answer as Ladaisha Grace scored and Northeast held on from there.
Logan and Shaqunta McDonald each scored 12 to lead the Trojans, who fell behind twice in the early going before grabbing the lead for good when Grace scored to make it 6-4 with 4:38 left in the first quarter. Northeast eventually extended the lead to 22-12 three minutes into the second quarter on a Danielle Miller bucket. West, though, gradually whittled away at the lead behind Thompson's 10 points.