By Steve Swogetinsky

Kemper County Messengerr

The Kemper County Wildcats close out the 2017-2018 regular season Thursday night when they play host to rival Northeast Lauderdale.

The two schools are not in the same region but have maintained an intense “backyard” rivalry over the years. The ‘neighbors’ regularly play two scheduled games and also compete in the Sam Dale tournament.

Kemper County Coach Daryl Osby is in his first year as coach of the Wildcats, but has family connections to the series. His son, Romero Osby, played for the Trojans and was part of several big games back in the mid-2000s. Osby went on to sign with Mississippi State and later Oklahoma. He was a second round draft pick by the Orlando Magic and later played professionally in Europe and Israel.

Northeast Lauderdale will visit Kemper County Thursday night. The teams met during the first game of the season back in November with the Trojans taking a 79-75 victory. Kemper County was to host region rival Forest on Tuesday.

The Wildcats dropped a pair of region games last week, falling 57-45 in overtime to Southeast Lauderdale and 57-45 to Choctaw Central.

SE Lauderdale 57

Wildcats 45

Southeast Lauderdale capitalized on a couple of timely three-point shots in the fourth quarter to rally and defeat the Wildcats in overtime.

Kemper County led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers came back to outscore Kemper County 11-7 in the second quarter. At the half, the Tigers held a 22-21 lead.

Kemper County went ahead in the third quarter and carried a 36-34 lead into the fourth quarter. The Tigers overcame a 12 point deficit and tied the game at 38-38 at the buzzer.

In overtime, Southeast Lauderdale got the hot hand and outpointed the Wildcats 16-7 to take the victory.

Timothy McElroy led the Wildcats in scoring with19 points. Delance Gillespie added 14 points while Trakaleb Welch put in 10 points. James Granger scored eight.

Choctaw Central 57

Wildcats 45

Kemper County fell behind in the first half but battled back to make a game of it in the second half.

The Warriors led 16-7 at the end of the first quarter. Choctaw Central had an 8-5 scoring edge in the second period and led 25-12 halftime lead.

Choctaw Central maintained its distance through the third quarter, outpointing the Wildcats 20-15. Leading 45-27 heading into the final quarter, the Warrior held off a late Kemper County rally.

McElroy led the Wildcats with 17 points while Gillespie added 14 points.

“Most of these teams we are losing close games to have experienced senior starters who won’t be back next year,” Coach Osby said. “We have nine underclassmen returning. We are so close. When we learn how to maintain our lead and put games away, we are going to be tough to beat.”

The Wildcats enter the Region 5-3A tournament next Tuesday.