February 23, 2013 11:11:49 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
HORN LAKE -- While Columbus High School had ended its previous two girls basketball seasons playing the what-if game, there was no such misery or agony Friday night.
With a trip to the Mississippi Coliseum and the overall state tournament on the line, Columbus could not get out of neutral falling 70-50 to third-ranked Southaven at Horn Lake High.
Columbus finishes the season at 18-7. The Lady Falcons lost for a third straight game in the North State semifinal round with a trip to Jackson hanging in the balance.
"Sometimes, you play a game and the other team is just better," Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston said. "We tried pressure. We tried zone. We gave them different looks. They had too many weapons. They really beat us in every phase and really took the challenge to us.
"When you reach this round, you are going to play an outstanding team. If we can play again, things might turn out differently. Tonight, they were the better team. You have to congratulate them because we had no answers."
Southaven had a size advantage underneath. The Lady Chargers made use of it early. As the game wore on, Southaven found the range outside. The 1-2 punch proved too much for Columbus.
"We really accomplished a lot," Columbus senior guard Kiki Patterson said. "Getting past this game proved difficult. Sometimes, we think too much instead of just playing. It has been real hard to see the season end like this."
Southaven took control in the late stages of the first quarter with a 10-2 run. The Lady Chargers eased out to a 20-12 advantage after one quarter.
Wanting to take control early, Southaven (26-4) did just that with defensive pressure. The Lady Chargers built a comfortable lead in the second quarter with another 10-2 run.
Patterson managed 38 points in a quarterfinal round win over Greenville Wesson. Her career ended with a modest 12-point night as Southaven used a double- and triple-team to make Columbus find other options.
"Southaven has a lot of size," Hairston said. "We knew we would have some matchup problems and that we would have to make shots. We have a difficult time matching up with some of the northern schools because they just have so many players. Their size and depth really affected us."
The Lady Chargers blew the contest open with a string of 14 straight points in the third quarter.
Southaven senior forward Aliyah Miller was the catalyst during the big run.
"Coach has been on us all year about starting fast," Miller said. "We tried to build a lead in the first quarter. He tells us to treat every possession like it is the last one in the game. Getting a fast start helped us win this game."
Miller and A'Queen Hayes each finished with 20 points. Joanna Smith added 17 points, including three 3-pointers.
Balance to complement Patterson has always been the challenge for Columbus. As the season progressed and the games got bigger, additional offensive production was the question mark.
Daisha Williams added nine points and LaTerrica Jefferson added seven points for Columbus.
While the Lady Falcons closed with a flourish to create the final margin, an inability to make consistent stops plagued them all night.
"This is our third-straight year to be in this position and we just couldn't quite get over the hump," Hairston said. "Some of it is mental. Some of it is playing great teams. We just couldn't quite put the complete game together to get over the hump.
"However, you are proud of the program. You are proud of the team." Hairston added that Lady Falcon basketball is in good standing even though the squad looks to rebuild next year.
"Based on the state rankings and our record, we may have overachieved a little bit," Hairston said. "We will have three or four players play college ball off this team. As a coach, that is why you are in this business. You want to help players grow, mature, develop and have a chance at the next level. It is very satisfying to see these players rewarded for their hard work.
"Hopefully, when we return to this position, we can take advantage of the opportunity."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter