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Mikell’s 25 points power Lawrence over St. Stan

MONTICELLO – This was a very important game for Lawrence Countyand St. Stanislaus Tuesday night. It was the opening round of theClass 4A South State playoffs at the Lawrence County Gymnasium.Both teams were on the floor one full hour before tipoff. They weregetting loose by taking jump shots and shooting free throws.

Lawrence County’s Nick Mikell was the last person to head forthe dressing room. His extra time on the floor to get his rhythmpaid off with a team-high 25 points as the Cougars defeated theRock-A-Chaws of St. Stanislaus 68-54, with a timely defensiveeffort and high-octane offense.

Lawrence County will host the semifinals and finals of the Class4A South State tournament Friday and Saturday night. Joining theCougars will be Crystal Springs, South Jones and Vancleave.Crystals Springs, the Division 6 runner-up, upset Division 7champion Picayune 83-74, in overtime.

Division 5 champion South Jones disposed of Division 8 runner-upEast Central 64-54. Division 8 champion Vancleave surprisedDivision 5 runner-up Mendenhall 63-60.

Pairings and game times for the tournament will be announced onThursday.

Lawrence Co. 68, St. Stanislaus 54

St. Stanislaus came into the ballgame with a reputationfor shooting the 3-point shot with consistent accuracy. LawrenceCounty is known for its tenacious defense and a pair ofguards,Mikell and Darius Starks, who can light up the scoreboard,if they are left open.

The Cougars (26-5), the Division 6-4A champions, cameout of the starting gate on fire. Tim Horton and Jerry Sims openedthe scoring for head coach Bobby Lee and assistant Eddie Rials.Lawrence County held a quick 4-0 lead, before the Chaws had to calla timeout.

St. Stanislaus, (24-11) coached by Jay Ladner, settleddown. J. R. Willis got the Chaws on the scoreboard, and it appearedthat he would carry his teammates throughout the night. Willisscored 9 points in the first 8 minutes.

Mikell sacked 3 treys in the opening period and Hortontotaled 8 points, as Lawrence County entertained a 26-11 advantage,heading into the second period. Mikell canned a 3-point basket, asthe first quarter horn sounded.

“No. 12 (Mikell) was the difference in the ballgame,”said a very gracious Ladner following the ballgame. “He shot thelights out tonight.”

Mikell continued his blistering attack in the second. Hebanked in 2 treys in the period and totaled 25 points in the gamefor Lawrence County, including 6-for-8 from beyond the 3-point arc.He was on the receiving end of many passes from Starks throughoutthe first half.

The Cougars turned to their defensive mode, holding St.Stanislaus to only 8 points in the period. Lawrence County heldseveral 20-point cushions, before taking a 19-point, 38-19 leadinto the halftime locker room.

“Our first half shooting was the key for us tonight,”said Lee following the game. “We shot the ball very well tonight.”He was referring to the Cougars, who shot 26-of-41 from the fieldoverall; including 19-of-26 from inside the 3-pointarc.

Ladner’s ballclub regrouped in the second half. TheChaws opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run. Willis, a 6-footsenior guard, was the catalyst in the surge, scoring the first 7points of the spurt. St. Stanislaus cut their deficit to 8 points,41-33 with 3:48 left in the period.

Lawrence County regained its composure to take a 47-33lead into the final frame. The Chaws’ defensive game plan came intoeffect, holding the Cougars to only 9 points in thequarter.

“I am proud of my guys for the way that they played inthe second half,” added Ladner. “Even though they ran out of gas,they played a good defensive game in the second half.”

St. Stanislaus would make another run in the fourth.Willis pumped 11 of his game-high 29 points in the period,including 2 treys. His steal and subsequent layup with 3 minutesremaining in the game, cut the Cougar’s lead to 54-48.

Horton and Steve Atterberry would put an end to theChaws’ season with a pair of reverse slams and freethrows.

Horton added 18 points and 10 rebounds, 6 off theoffensive end, 2 steals and 7 assists. Starks only scored 3 points,but he dished out a team-high 8 assists. Atterberry scored 9points.

Willis, who averages 23.9 points per game, finished with4 rebounds and 5 assists. Lee Howard added 7 points and 5 reboundsfor St. Stanislaus.