February 19, 2013 1:11:12 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
Postgame hugs were very brief and to the point for Columbus High senior Kiki Patterson Monday night.
After all when you are battling flu-like symptoms, personal space becomes a very precious item.
Patterson appeared exhausted as she kept her greetings short.
The words of encouragement came after a 38-point night helped lift Columbus past Greenville-Weston 70-61 in an opening-round game of the Mississippi High School Activities Association North State Class 6A playoffs at the Falcon Lair.
Columbus (18-6) will now advance to the North State semifinals for a third straight season where it will meet third-ranked Southaven (25-4). Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Horn Lake High School.
"Really the plan was for me to play early and for us to get a lead," Patterson said. "Tonight I wasn't really sure I could have a game like this. I did not feel well the entire day. Early, I trying to get my teammates involved while I try to find a shot. I found it earlier than expected."
Patterson spent a couple of stretches on the bench in the first half. As she sat dazed at the end of the bench with a towel wrapped around her head, the Lady Falcons continued to battle.
Greenville-Weston (10-19) stayed within range much longer than expected, thanks in part to brilliant 3-point shooting. In the end, the Honeybees had no answer for Patterson.
"Kiki did what a great player does," Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston said. "When the team needed it the most, she played the game of her life. Honestly, I was not sure what we were going to get out of her tonight. We really were sluggish as a team in the first half. In the second half, we came out and took care of business."
Patterson's stat line was remarkable: 38 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
"I knew I really had to take the game over," Patterson said. "I needed to get the game back under control. Once I felt the ball was in my hands, I felt like the game was under control. This team's confidence level is high but they feed off me.
"When I am having a good night, the team is having a good night. When I am not, the team is not. I understand that. That is part of being a leader. I like helping setting the tone for the other players."
The Honeybees were setting the tone early with a monster performance from 3-point range.
Destiny Hemphill and Takyla Dukes were each dialing long distance as Greenville-Weston built the early lead.
Patterson returned for her first brief rest period to score two baskets and dish out one assist during an 8-0 run to end the first quarter. The Lady Falcons appeared to be in control with a 19-13 advantage.
Daisha Williams put an exclamation point on the quarter-ending flurry with a blocked shot as the horn expired.
Columbus extended the run to 13 straight and built an 11-point advantage two minutes into the second quarter. Not deterred, the Honeybees kept plugging away, reeled off 10 straight points and had the deficit back to three at 33-30 at halftime.
"Give Greenville credit for coming in here with a really great game plan," Hairston said. "They were not intimidated and they really competed. In the second half, we were really challenged to take the game to another level. Fortunately, our kids responded to that challenge."
Greenville remained within striking distance as late as the last couple of minutes of the third quarter. The Honeybees were within 40-39 after a basket from Shaniqwa Barber.
Patterson then got her troops together for one last push. The Lady Falcons forced some turnovers and got the transition game going. Many opponents have wilted under the speed of Columbus' talented transition game.
The Lady Falcons ushered out the third quarter and began the fourth quarter with a 17-1 run.
Patterson scored 13 points during that run. Williams, Ka'Daryal Ledbetter and Williams each added big plays on the defensive end.
"When I am not involved in the offense, we really struggled," Patterson said. "We had a stretch there we went three possessions without scoring and that let them get back in the game. When we get some steals and get the offense going, we are dangerous."
Ledbetter finished with 22 points for Columbus. Dukes had 23 points, while Hemphill had 21 points for Greenville, which finished with eight 3-point plays.
Now Columbus turns its attention to the North State semifinal round. The last two seasons, the Lady Falcons saw their quest for Jackson end right here, one game shy of the state tournament.
"For the past two seasons, we couldn't get past this point," Patterson said. "It's not about strategizing anymore. It is all about playing our game."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter