Red-hot Wildcats looking for postseason success
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 6:00 PM
By Rocky Higginbotham
Kemper County's Malik Jones (22) goes to the air to score in the Wildcats victory over Choctaw Central.
Kemper County Messenger
The Kemper County Wildcats are hoping a red-hot regular season finish with carry over to postseason success.
The Wildcats took the Region 5-3A regular season crown on Tuesday night with a 58-44 win at Forest and beat Northeast Lauderdale 54-52 to close out the regular season with a 15-8 mark.
The Wildcats will await the winner of the Choctaw Central/Choctaw County first round contest. Kemper County will play the winner at 5:30 today (Thursday) at Philadelphia High.
In girls' action, the Lady Wildcats closed out the regular season with a 51-46 win over Northeast after dropping their final district game at Forest 60-50 on Tuesday.
The Kemper County girls were scheduled to play on Tuesday in the first round of the district tournament in a win-or-go home contest against Southeast Lauderdale.
For the boys', the Wildcats outlasted Forest in a tough road contest to win the regular season district crown.
"It was a tough game," said Kemper County coach John Alan Darnell. "It was nip and tuck and back and forth until the fourth quarter."
The two teams were tied 17-17 at half and the Wildcats led 40-36 going into the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Malik Jones and Gus Nave helped put the Wildcats over the top in the 58-44 win.
"Malik Jones had a huge second half and sparked us in the fourth quarter," said Darnell. "He hit three big shots and Gus Nave dissected their defense in the final minutes after we got them spread out"
Matt Dale finished with 20 points in the contest while Jones finished with 14 points and Nave added 11.
In their regular season finale, the Wildcats came up with a 54-52 win over Northeast in the final seconds. Kemper County fell behind in the fourth quarter and lost big-man Dale to foul trouble.
Tim McElroy stepped in made several big plays including a big block with the team down one point with a minute remaining.
Kemper County tied the game and Nave was fouled with one second remaining in the contest. After a Northeast technical foul, Nave hit two free throws to give Kemper the 54-52 win.
"It was a gutsy, impressive win," said Darnell. "It was a playoff atmosphere and we responded well and got the win. Any time you play Northeast, especially at their place, its a battle."
Dale finished with 19 points in limited minutes and Nave finished with 14 points.
The Lady Wildcats also beat Northeast Lauderdale to try to build momentum headed into the postseason.
Kemper led 21-16 and at half and held off the Lady Trojans in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
Precious Chamberlin had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Kemper County while Mercedez Jackson added 15 and Kiandrea Cherry finished with 13.
The win helped the Lady Wildcats bounce back from a 60-50 loss at Forest.
Forest scored 21 points in the second quarter to build a 33-15 halftime lead on the way to the win.
Cherry had 18 points for Kemper County in the loss while Chamberlin added 12 points and 13 rebounds and Nekeida Rencher added 11 points.