Top-rated Murrah overtakes Natchez

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2000

Jackson Murrah junior Maurice Daniels looked up at the Natchez crowd with less than a minute to play and held his fingers to his lips motioning the crowd to keep quiet after the Bulldogs missed two easy shots under the goal that would have pulled them within three with 24 seconds remaining. Acually, Daniels had quieted the crowd much earlier than that when he hit three straight 3-pointers and a field goal to help lead the No. 1 Mustangs past Natchez 69-62 here Friday.

&uot;It was crunch time and I knew I had to step it up,&uot;&160;Daniels said.

Daniels gave Murrah its first lead of the game with 4:11 remaining with his trademark high arching shot that hit nothing but the net to put the Mustangs up 59-57.

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Another three from the right baseline made it 62-57.

Another shot from the corner and a field goal helped put Murrah up 67-62.

&uot;He’s a kid who plays on instinct,&uot;&160;Frith said of Daniels, who led the Mustangs with 23 points.. &uot;Sometimes he takes a shot and I’ll say, ”No, no, no’ and the makes it. He just gets in a zone and feels it.&uot;

Natchez was the team in the zone in the first half as the Bulldogs jumped out to an 18-10 first quarter lead.

Two 3-pointers by Jamal Bouldin and two-3-pointers and a field goal by David Haywood helped Natchez to a 38-22 halftime advantage.

&uot;We didn’t play real well in the first half, we just got out here and were sleepwalking,&uot; said Murrah coach Bob Frith. &uot;We were shellshocked. We knew Natchez was a good team, but we didn’t do what we had to do. I said some things in the dressing room at halftime that I couldn’t say out loud. There were things I wouldn’t want my principal to hear.&uot;

Natchez went cold in the third quarter and Murrah started heating it up.

Two straight baskets by junior Josh Armstrong pulled the Mustangs to within 43-38.

A 3-pointer by James Walker and a basket by junior Mo Williams pulled Murrah (15-3) to within 50-48 at the end of the third quarter.

Williams, who finished with 13 points, tied the game at 52-52 early in the final quarter.

Haywood, who led all scorers with 28 points, hit two field goals and a 3-pointer to keep the game even before Daniels went to work.

Harris added 11 for Natchez.

&uot;We played hard and were more aggressive in the first half,&uot; said Natchez center Vasshun Newborne. &uot;We wanted to win, we just didn’t want to play them close.&uot;

&uot;They were able to stop the bleeding, we couldn’t do that,&uot; said Natchez High coach Mike Martin. &uot;We’re an emotional team and when things start going wrong we can’t get down like we did in the second half. Somebody has to pick everybody up and keep us at that same level.&uot;

There was no girls game because Murrah is playing in a tournament in Florida.