By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
The magic finally ran out.
Playing in their first division championship game in 23 years, the Southeast Lauderdale boys couldn’t finish off the title run in the 5-3A tournament in Vimville, falling 49-45 to Heidelberg on Friday.
Southeast, which completed a 4-0 season against Kemper County — a team it hadn’t beaten in eight years — on Tuesday, the Tigers then downed Choctaw Central on Thursday to reach the rare championship showdown.
There, Southeast and Heidelberg battled in a back-and-forth game that the Oilers survived.
“It’s a process,” Southeast second-year coach Centel Truman said. “I’m proud of the guys. They gave me everything they had.”
However, the Tigers were unable to overcome a slew of missed free throws and close-range shots to top Heidelberg.
Still, Southeast now hosts Collins in first-round state playoff game at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Collins can do things athletic-wise that we just can’t really match,” Truman said. “But if we do the little things and stay focused, we should be fine.”
Despite the loss — Jawhun Malone led the Tigers with 12 points, eight coming in the first half as Southeast led 26-24 at the break before the Oilers took control with a 14-6 third-quarter edge, Truman liked what he saw in the Tigers’ postgame locker room.
“They told me when I got in there that they were not satisfied with second place,” he said. “They said they are ready to get to work Monday so they can win Tuesday.
“I tell them every year that we are going to win a state championship. And I truly believe that we are going to win a state championship. I finally think they are starting to believe it, too.”
Jonathan Tilman added 10 points.