December 29, 2012 11:01:39 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Quite often, 35 points will not make a basketball coach very happy.
Columbus High boys basketball coach Sammy Smith loved every one of his team's 35 points Friday morning.
The Falcons executed their defensive game plan to near perfection as Columbus knocked off Midfield (Ala.) 35-34 to kick off the final day of the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at The Hump Tournament at Humphrey Coliseum.
"Last season, we lost so many close games," Smith said. "This season, we are winning those games. We are making smart decisions in the fourth quarter. We are guarding harder and making that one extra stop.
"As a coach, seeing that growth and maturity makes you excited."
Midfield (8-7) had dazzled the tournament crowd with its 3-point shooting ability through its first two games.
The Falcons put the clamps on the long-range bombing. The Patriots only hit five. Arron Gaines could not bag a sixth as his potential game-winner hit off the back iron as the horn sounded.
"During the off-season, we worked on becoming a better defensive team," Columbus junior Brandon Porter said. "We always feel like we will score enough points to win. We know we can take possessions off on the defensive end of we will get beat."
Columbus (8-5) frustrated Midland with its deliberate style of play from the opening tip. Ironically, the Patriots had already played a similar game in the event, holding off Starkville 41-25 in the tournament opener.
The Falcons scored the first quarter's final nine points. A 3-pointer by D.D. Walker as the quarter expired gave the Falcons a 14-7 advantage.
"We have done a great job of starting games this season," Smith said. "With our limits on offense, we can't let up. It seems like we sometimes have a tendency to build a lead and slack off a little bit.
"This time, we stayed a little more determined at what we were doing throughout the game. That is something we had been working on."
Columbus worked the clock methodically and made the most of two field goals in the second quarter to hold a 19-14 advantage at halftime.
Midfield saw the need to increase the pace in the game's second half. The Patriots still could not find the range on offense, but full-court pressure allowed them to stay in the contest.
C.J. Scott and J.J. Swanigan carried the workload for the Falcons as they built a 30-24 lead heading into the final quarter.
Midfield followed with the first eight points of the fourth quarter. Back-to-back 3s by Theo Sankey and Antione Davis placed the Patriots on top 32-30.
"We didn't get worried," Porter said. "We just knew we had to go out and make some plays."
The Falcons made the plays where they always do -- on defense.
Devin Berry (game leading 10 points) got a blocked shot and Porter scored the go-ahead points with a 3-point play.
C.J. Scott followed with a steal and Porter hit two big free throws to get the Falcons to 35.
On this day, that was enough.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter