The Meridian Star
One down, one to go.
That is what Southeast Lauderdale girls basketball head coach Joe Miller told his team after a 73-43 win over Forest in the first round of the South State Tournament at Choctaw Central High School Thursday night. The win not only prolonged the Tigers' season, it also put them one win away from a guaranteed trip to Jackson for the State Championship Tournament.
“The big game is tomorrow night, that's what gets us there,” Miller said. “If we make it tomorrow night, that will be nine out of 10 years.
“I didn't think we played good defense in the first half. In the second half, I thought we played excellent all around. We had good defense, and I thought we had a good offensive game tonight as well.”
Recovering from an injured knee, Southeast center Crystal Clay dominated in the first half, putting up 20 points as the Tigers headed into halftime with a 40-27 lead. Clay finished the night with 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
In the third quarter, Southeast pulled away from Forest, holding the Bearcats to only six points to head into the fourth with a commanding 54-33 lead. The Tigers' only scare came with 3:26 left in the third, when Clay was fouled hard and fell awkwardly to the court on her injured knee. Clay limped to the bench under her own power and did not play for the rest of the quarter.
Southeast fans took a sigh of relief though, as Clay took the court again in the fourth. However, with the game already in hand, Miller decided to rest his starters later in the quarter.
“That knee has been bothering her, and it was hurting her,” Miller said. “I just told her to stay out only if you want to. I told her it was late, and you don't want to get an injury there when we got the game won.”
Kamesha Pringle played a key part in the win for Southeast, using her speed to capitalize on fast-break points and create opportunities for her teammates. Pringle finished the night with 12 points and eight assists on offense and also tallied five steals on defense. Denisha Knight also had a big game, dishing out a game-high 12 assist for Southeast.
“Kamesha Pringle is so fast,” Miller said. “She played the whole ballgame, and she can just go. Denisha Knight can make some passes that not many players can make. When Kamesha gets it or Denisha gets it, it's a really good combo.”
Tay Ruffin (14 points) and Jasmine Bush (nine points, 15 rebounds, six blocks) also played key roles for the Tigers. Southeast Lauderdale will face Collins at 6 p.m. At Choctaw Central High School tonight.
“We are right where we want to be,” Miller said. “We are one win away. Tomorrow night is the big game. We'd like to win South State too, but tomorrow night is the big game and the one we got to have. I told my team to go get out in a hurry and watch Collins, because that's who we will see tomorrow night.”