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Meridian Beats Murrah to Claim 6A State Title back button

Article Courtesy of The Clarion-Ledger
By: Annie Costabile 

Meridian celebrates winning the 6A state championship boys' basketball game on Saturday in the Mississippi Coliseum. The Wildcats beat Murrah 68-59. Photo: Bob Smith, For The Clarion-Ledger

For the Meridian seniors Saturday's 6A state championship has been three years in the making. In the past they were knocked out of the finals too soon. This year they were finally crowned champions.

Bringing the program its third title in school history with a 68-59 win against Murrah, this group of seniors bought in to first-year coach Ronald Norman's plan and it paid off.

"It's a place where that's the expectation," Norman said. "At Meridian we expect to win at everything. Over the years we've had some good teams. Up here in 6A its tough every night. Theres no push over in 6A. When you have the opportunity to get here you better seize it. This has been a three year process for my seniors. They've been here and got beat. This year is a culmination of those three wins we wanted. We got three and we're state champions."

Neither team dominated the first half. There were eight lead changes and two tie ups. Meridian was knocking them down from outside, shooting 5-of-7 from behind the arc. Murrah did a great job breaking down the 1-3-1 defense, giving the Mustangs inside looks (12 of their 25 first half points came in the paint).

Despite both teams playing each other pretty even in the first half there was one player in particular that stood out. Meridian's Jay Malone shot 100 percent from 3-point range, 100 percent from the free throw line and missed just three field goals. He knocked down one of those three-pointers at the buzzer of the second quarter, sending his team into the half with a 29-25 lead.

Meridian turned it up in the third quarter. It had 12 points in the paint and continued shooting well from outside. The Wildcats went into the fourth quarter with a eight point lead, 48-39, and the Mustangs never came back.

"Those kids believed," Norman said. "Our kids are warriors. They never get too up or too down. They know that we can make runs and that's what we did. We made enough stops made a good enough run that when we were exchanging baskets it really didn't matter."

It didn't matter. The Wildcats got out to a large enough lead that no matter the points Murrah put up they couldn't get past that nine point deficit.

One of the keys to Meridian's run was Malone. He finished with 23 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals Saturday. Malone was awarded the player of the game title. As one of those seniors who has waited three years for this moment, finally accomplishing it was everything he expected it to be.

"It means so much," Malone said. "My team had so much confidence in me. It relaxed me while I played. I was able to play with confidence because of them. We have huge support with us. The whole city came out. It's an extraordinary feeling right now. I am speechless."

This is the first title for Meridian since 2011, and before that it was 1979. Winning is an expectation at Meridian, and possibly a new program tradition after Saturday night.

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