Choctaw Central's Kristen Dixon and Shakira Shoemaker battle for position under the goal Saturday night during the girls Class 3A South State finals. Choctaw Central won the game, 70-64. Both teams will advance to the State Tournament in Jackson on Saturday.
Choctaw Central's Kristen Dixon and Shakira Shoemaker battle for position under the goal Saturday night during the girls Class 3A South State finals. Choctaw Central won the game, 70-64. Both teams will advance to the State Tournament in Jackson on Saturday.
The Choctaw Central Lady Warriors have earned a place in the Girls State Class 3A tournament for the fourth year in a row.

The Lady Warriors will enter the tournament as South State champions following their 70-64 victory over Southeast Lauderdale Saturday night. They will take on Charleston in the first round Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. The Lady Tigers stand at 25-5 following a 66-61 loss to Ripley in the North State finals. Ripley will play Southeast Lauderdale at 1 p.m.

The Lady Warriors stand at 26-7 after hosting the South State tournament this past weekend.

After opening the tournament Monday night with a 65-57 win over West Marion, Choctaw Central went on to eliminate Crystal Springs 62-48 on Thursday night and Pass Christian 79-66 on Friday night.

Choctaw Central's victory over Southeast Lauderdale was the Lady Warriors' first this season after five tries. The Lady Tigers won the first three games convincingly: 62-56 in the East Central tournament finals; 78-62 in the regular season game at Southeast Lauderdale; and, 84-72 in the regular season finale at Choctaw Central. But in the finals of the Region 5-3A tournament, Southeast Lauderdale slipped by with a 57-56 win and you could see the Lady Warriors were coming.

Choctaw Central 79

Pass Christian 66

But before the Lady Warriors could play Southeast Lauderdale, they had to get past a tough Pass Christian team.

The Lady Pirates led 16-7 after the first quarter and went up 23-9 with 4:55 remaining in the half.

But then the Lady Warriors roared back with 15 unanswered points to pull within one point 23-22 - with 1:55 left in the half. Back-to-back three-point shots by Renaysia Polk and Kristen Dixon held to close the gap. Southeast Lauderdale would outscore the Lady Warriors 7-6 in the time remaining and led 30-28 at the half.

The Lady Warriors stayed after Pass Christian throughout the early minutes of the third quarter and took the lead - 42-41 - with 3:50 remaining on Lashayla McMillan's shot. Choctaw Central's offense then went into high gear as they outscored Pass Christian 14-3 in the time remaining to lead 56-45 going into the final quarter. The Lady Pirates never came close as Choctaw Central held on for the win. Dixon led with 20 points while Kandace Lasiloo, McMillan and Reneysia Polk all added 18 points.

Choctaw Central 70

Southeast Lauderdale 64

The gym was packed and people had to be turned away at the door.

Choctaw Central led 22-17 after the first quarter. But the Lady Tigers fought back to take the lead 29-28 with 2:48 left in the half. Lasiloo connected on a three-point shot to put Choctaw Central back front and they held on to lead 37-33 at the half.

Choctaw Central outscored Southeast Lauderdale 12-9 in the third quarter and led 49-42 as they started the final quarter. The Lady Tigers never gave up. They came out with an intense full-court press and managed to tie the game at 52-52 with 5:42 left.

But at about that point, they lost their outstanding post player Crystal Clay to what appeared to be a serious injury to her left knee. She had to be carried off the court and downstairs to the locker room.

Southeast Lauderdale would lose two other players to ankle injuries before the game was over but Joe Miller's team played hard.

Choctaw Central outscored the Lady Tigers 18-10 in the time remaining to claim the victory.

McMillan scored 23 points to lead the Lady Warriors. Lasiloo added 18 points and Dixon scored 13. Anitra Ruffin paced the Lady Tigers with 19 points.

This also marks the third year in a row the Lady Warriors have beaten Southeast Lauderdale in the South State finals.

Choctaw Central Boys

The Choctaw Central defeated West Marion 88-72 in the first round of the Boys Class 3A South State tournament, but then was eliminated by Hazlehurst 59-56 in the semifinals. The Warriors finished with a 14-11 record.