Bulldogs to face Bassfield Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Forest|[02/20/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

UTICA — Keeslee Stewart is a 5-foot, 7-inch sophomore guard who can dunk one-handed and whose shooting range is somewhere in Hinds County.

JaCorey Wright is a similar-sized senior with magician’s hands and cat-quick reflexes.

Together they form one of the most dangerous backcourts on one of the most dangerous boys basketball teams in Mississippi.

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Wright scored a game-high 19 points and Stewart added 18 points as Hinds AHS battered Kemper County 80-48 in the Class 2A South State satellite game. The Bulldogs (30-0), the only undefeated team left in the state, are scheduled to play Bassfield on Thursday at Forest. Hinds AHS needs to win Thursday, then win either Friday or Saturday to reach the state tournament in Jackson.

“This is a good group of guys who are focused and hungry,” Hinds AHS coach Keith Williams said. “Every day we talk about taking it one game at a time. If we do that, I think we will be OK.”

Hinds opened in its signature pressure defense and flustered the Wildcats from the beginning. Kemper County, a school in DeKalb which finished fourth in the Division 5-2A Tournament, committed 36 turnovers and fell behind by double figures at the end of the first quarter on an off-balance 3-pointer by Wright at the buzzer.

“It’s cat-quick defense,” Wright said. “We’re real aggressive. We haven’t seen anyone that can handle our defense yet and we hope we don’t see one the rest of the year.”

Wright had seven steals and scored 11 of his points in the first half, and Stewart hit a 25-foot 3-pointer with four seconds to play in the first half as Hinds held a 43-23 lead at the break. The Bulldogs began the third quarter on a 12-4 run extending the lead to as many as 35 in the second half. Kemper turned the ball over 17 times in the second half.

“We forced 36 turnovers?” Williams asked. “Back in sync.

“We wanted to see if they could play our tempo game. When we are rolling defensively we are better than anyone.”

Erik Burks added 10 points for Hinds and Kenderek Washington was held to eight points.

Javon Payne led Kemper County with 13 points — the only Wildcat in double figures.

Throughout the season, the Bulldogs have not let talk of a perfect season affect them and things will not change now.

“It doesn’t even seem like we are undefeated. We don’t even talk about it,” Stewart said. “We have to play as one and not let anyone or anything come between us.”