January 5, 2013 11:27:27 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
Standing at 6-foot-7, it isn't hard to find Columbus High School senior Devin Berry on the basketball court.
Tupelo knew where Berry was when the teams met Friday night in Class 6A, Region 2 action. However, the Golden Wave couldn't prevent Berry from having his way.
Another double-double by Berry (15 points, 12 rebounds) and a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter lifted the Falcons to a 42-37 victory.
"Back during the holidays, we told Devin it was time for him to step up just a little bit more and to really play like a legitimate big man," Columbus coach Sammy Smith said. "We told him to think double-double. There is no reason he can't have a ridiculous stat line every night."
Consider the message received.
With his team trailing 25-18 early in the third quarter, Berry blocked a shot or grabbed a defensive rebound on nine consecutive possessions. The spurt helped Columbus score the final 13 points of the quarter.
"The big man was really special out there," Columbus junior point guard C.J. Scott said.
Berry's defense led to some kickout opportunities. Columbus (9-5, 1-1 region) responded and took the offense to another level.
Roshad Meeks scored a basket and then sank two free throws. Joshua Turner followed with a 3-pointer. Berry then padded his scoring totals with a fast-break layup and a putback on the next possession.
Brandon Porter drained a jumper as the third quarter expired to help Columbus score the final 13 points of the quarter and take a 31-25 lead after three quarters. Tupelo didn't score in the final 7 minutes, 15 seconds of the quarter.
"It was a total lock-down effort on defense," Smith said. "When we execute, we are really good. When we don't over-think things, we have a chance. The credit goes to Devin who really got us going underneath. He was a warrior."
Berry appreciated Smith's encouragement during the holiday workouts.
"He told me it was time to step it up if I wanted to get paid," Berry said. "He told me the big men always get paid when they post the numbers. I really responded to that challenge. I am happy I was able to help my teammates because this was a good win."
Tupelo (9-8, 0-1) scored the first seven points of the second quarter to build an 18-11 advantage. Thanks to a steal and layup by Brandon Porter and a 3-pointer by D.D. Walker, the Falcons pulled within 21-18 at halftime.
The Green Wave scored on back-to-back possessions to start the second half.
"We really made some good adjustments," Scott said. "Coach called three straight good plays after they went to the zone. We got a (game-tying) 3-pointer (from Turner) and then we got it inside on the next two plays (for back-to-back baskets by Berry). Those three plays gave us the lead and changed the whole game up for good.
"It is all about executing. We did a great job of it there in the third quarter and took control."
The Golden Wave closed within two twice in the fourth quarter. However, Porter hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:15 to seal the deal.
"I really like where we are because we are playing together," Berry said. "When we lose a game, it is not because of a bunch of mistakes, it is because we miss some shots. We have the confidence at a high level because we really believe in one another. That is what being a team is all about."
Scott feels the same way as Columbus enters the stretch run of region play. Columbus will play host to region rival Grenada on Tuesday before it travels to South Panola on Friday for another region game. The region tournament will be in February at South Panola.
"There is still some room for improvement," Scott said. "I like how we are playing, but we all know we can be better. That is the fun part. We come out every day, working hard, trying to get better."
Porter added 13 points for Columbus, while Quinn Tiggs had 11 for Tupelo.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter