January 7, 2014 9:32:38 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
On a night when hitting free throws proved to be a chore, the Columbus High School boys basketball team hit those same shots when it counted the most.
Javontae McDavid hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining to help Columbus rally from a 15-point deficit and beat New Hope 60-58 in the final game of the Trojan Holiday Classic.
"I didn't tell him anything. I just told him to make the free throws," Columbus coach Sammy Smith said. "Obviously you can tell Javontae is one of our better free throw shooters. He is a sophomore. I had all the confidence in the world in him. He is the one we chose."
Columbus' C.J. Scott forced a turnover and hit two free throws with 10.5 seconds to help Columbus (13-3) tie the game. New Hope then was called for five seconds on the ensuing inbounds play, only to have the call reversed and retain possession Unfortunately, the Trojans turned the ball over bringing it up the sideline with 6.1 seconds remaining. The turnover was one of 10 in the final 5 minutes, 33 seconds committed by New Hope once it built a 54-39 lead.
Columbus capitalized on the next-to-last turnover, as Scott drove the lane and missed a runner. Jay Jay Swanigan went up high in an attempt to corral the rebound, but he was fouled and fell hard on the back of his head. Swanigan walked off the court under his own power, but Smith had McDavid shoot the free throws. The sophomore guard calmly sank both shots to give the Falcons their first lead since the opening minute of the game.
New Hope turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play, but Columbus couldn't cash in, missing its final two free throws to finish 30 of 50 from the line.
Smith said it was a matter of his team showing character to overcome adversity and one of New Hope's most intense and hardest working efforts of the season.
"We didn't panic," Smith said. "We stayed the course through adversity. The referees never beat you. You are 10 points down when you play on the road. I don't think the game was a rhythmatic game, but it was a game we had to fight through."
New Hope built its biggest lead of the night thanks to a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Terryonte Thomas capped the run and gave New Hope a 54-39 lead. But eight-straight turnovers followed as New Hope tried to do things too quickly against Columbus' pressure. The Falcons helped themselves, too, by hitting 8 of 8 free throws before McDavid's final two helped give them the lead for good.
Jaylon Bardley paced New Hope with 19 points, while Demyis Mayberry added nine. Shemar Johnson, who led New Hope with 16 points in Columbus' 56-42 victory against New Hope in the final game of the 17th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic at Columbus High, had only five due to foul trouble.
"That is one that is firmly in your control and you let it slip right out from underneath you," New Hope coach Drew McBrayer said. "It is a tough one for the kids. You understand you are young, but at some point in time somebody has to be able to step up and handle a little bit of pressure."
Despite all of the turnovers, New Hope still led 55-51 with 1:56 to play. New Hope hit 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch, but McDavid added a crucial 3-pointer with 50.7 seconds to go off an assist from Scott that cut the deficit to 58-56.
"You have got to go make a play," McBrayer said. "You have to be tough enough to handle it and you have to be smart enough not to throw the ball up in the crowd, and we did it entirely too much in the last four minutes. That comes with immaturity and youth, but at this point in time they have played enough ballgames that they have got to be able to figure that out.
"We worked our tails off for three and a half quarters to build it to where it was and that is what is so disappointing. We worked so hard to get there, so hard to get there, and then let it fall apart the last four minutes. It is hard to swallow."
Cameron Douglas paced Columbus with 14 points, McDavid and Brandon Porter had eight, while Swanigan and Jaron Thompson had seven and Tim Lewis had six.
In the girls game, D.J. Sanders had a game-high 28 points as New Hope (13-1) handed Tupelo (11-1) its first loss in a 67-46 victory.
"I think our pressure and the speed at which we forced them to play (helped turn the game)," New Hope coach Laura Lee Holman said. "I think our pressure really made them play at a speed they aren't used to playing at. I think that really, really played into our hands very well."
New Hope overcame foul problems in the first half that limited Taylor Baudoin, but it received a solid effort that included 12 points from Kaitlin Bradley, seven from Baudoin, and six from Mercedes Mattix.
Leading 29-23 at halftime, New Hope, which has only lost to Northwest Rankin, used a 15-0 run in a stretch of 3:17 in the third quarter to blow the game open. Sanders had 10 points in the spurt in which the Lady Trojans turned up the heat on defense and forced turnovers to make it 49-27 with 2:16 to go in the quarter.
Baudoin had all seven of her points in the second half after the Lady Trojans received solid efforts off the bench from LaClaudia Keaton and Allison Newton.
"I think it was very important for our whole team to make a statement and let everyone know we're here," Baudoin said. "We proved we can come out and perform in high-competition game as and do well and not melt, as coach Holman says. We just realized we had to do it and not beat ourselves."
n On Friday night, the New Hope boys defeated Noxubee County 83-63. Demyis Mayberry led the Trojans with 18 points. Johnson had 12 points, Bardley added 11, and Willie Ousley had 10.
In other action Friday, Columbus beat Northwest Rankin 63-55. D.D. Wallace led a balanced scoring attack for the Falcons with 11 points. Scott had 10, Artavious McDyess added eight, Tim Lewis had seven, and Porter and Cameron Douglas each had six. Ten players scored for Columbus, which improved to 2-1 in the district.
n On Friday, the New Hope girls beat Noxubee County 77-49. Sanders had 24, while Bradley had 15, Baudoin added 14, and Moesha Calmes had eight.
n In other girls basketball action Saturday, Starkville Academy beat Richland 58-22.
Anna McKell had 19 points, six rebounds, and two assists, Nora Kathryn Carroll had 18 points, five rebounds, and two assists, and Sallie Kate Richardson had 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and two blocked shots.
n On Friday, the Starkville Academy girls lost to St. Joseph Catholic 39-32. St. Joseph Catholic outscored Starkville Academy 15-4 in the fourth quarter to get the victory.
Richardson had 16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocked shots, McKell had eight points, four rebounds, and two assists, and Carroll had seven points, four rebounds, and two steals.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.