Ridgeland poked and prodded Malik Newman. The Titans grabbed his white Callaway jersey.
Despite its efforts, Ridgeland couldn’t wrestle the MHSAA Class 5A boys basketball championship from one of the nation’s top-ranked seniors and the Chargers, who are ranked No. 4 in the USA TODAY High School Sports Super 25.
Callaway, from Jackson, Miss., won its fourth straight state championship with a 66-43 win Friday night.
“He kind of started slow because of it,” Callaway coach David Sanders said. “But he was able to get into a rhythm that second half. Once his jumper started falling, there wasn’t anything they could do.”
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In his four years at Callaway, Newman left little to improve upon his legacy. The Chargers already retired his number. The notoriety led to a website, nickname and a logo.
He waited until the fourth quarter for his encore performance at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Ridgeland’s pestering held Newman to 5 of 12 shooting through three quarters. He still piled 17 points.
Newman broke through in the fourth, ending a game that saw six lead changes in the first half.
“Malik kind of went a little off on us right there,” Ridgeland coach Roderick Davison said. “He made some big shots. That’s what All-Americans do.”
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Newman opened the quarter with eight straight points. His second 3 of the quarter pushed the Chargers’ lead to 16. It grew to 22 with three minutes remaining when Decardo Day threw down an alley-oop from Newman.
A minute later, Newman’s high school career came to a close as he walked to the bench with his team up 24.
“This will always be a memory that I remember,” Newman said.
He led all scorers with 27 points and six assists. He also grabbed six rebounds. Dimencio Vaughn was the only Charger who had more rebounds with seven. Vaughn and Wesley Harris joined Newman as the only Callaway players in double figures.
“It really just opened up for me,” Newman said. “The team, they started playing well. They really couldn’t just focus on me.”
The quest for Callaway’s seventh overall title started slow for the Chargers.
Ridgeland led three times in the first half. Newman missed his first two shots and his first two free throws. He sank 2 of 6 field goals in the first half.
After the final buzzer, he was named the game’s MVP. The final chapter of his career at Callaway ended with Newman smiling for pictures while wearing a four-peat championship T-shirt.
“I definitely didn’t want to be the coach that didn’t get ‘The Machine’ his last championship,” Sanders said.