November 18, 2009 10:41:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
If things go according to plan for Sammy Smith, Michael Hall will play a key role this season in helping the Columbus High School boys basketball team come together.
Hall showed again Tuesday night how he can be a ring leader, scoring a game-high 22 points in a 71-44 victory against East Oktibbeha.
Chy Cunningham earned game-high scoring honors with 26 points to lead the Columbus High girls to a 62-48 victory against East Oktibbeha.
Hall, a senior guard, showcased his versatility in the victory. The 6-foot-3 left-hander showed shooting range from behind the 3-point arc, an ability to break down defenses and get to the basket, and a willingness to work in the paint for offensive rebounds and putbacks.
That do-it-all approach should work well for the Falcons (2-2), who have won their last two games after losing to William Sullivan and West Lowndes to open the season.
"(Michael) has to step up and help the guys around him," Smith said. "He is such an unselfish guy that it is hard to break that. We have other guys who are going to have to step up and help him out and make plays. They''re not used to playing, but they''re out there on the floor and they have to stick with it."
Senior point guard Herman Roberts (12 points) was the only other player in double figures for Columbus, which had 11 players score. Even though Smith has seven seniors on his varsity roster, he said the Falcons are still rounding into form after suffering key graduation losses.
"We have to cut down on mistakes, and that comes from playing together," Smith said. "This team hasn''t been playing together as a cohesive unit for a while because we lost those guys who dominated the ball. We''re getting better. They play hard and they''re trying to do what we ask them, and that''s all we can ask. We''re going to do that every night and, hopefully, we can make things go our way."
Hall scored on an offensive rebound putback and on a layup off a pass from Roberts to help the Class 6A Falcons take a 20-8 lead after the first quarter. East Oktibbeha, a Class 1A school, suffered through a cold shooting night, fell behind by as many as 24 in the second quarter, and never challenged.
"We didn''t shoot the ball real well, but we didn''t rebound real well," said East Oktibbeha coach Barnett Robinson, whose team slipped to 0-3. "They just wanted it more. We didn''t take care of business like we are supposed to do."
Jamario Carter led the Titans with 14 points. Casey Neal had all of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. Leading scorer Douglas Chandler had only three points.
"I hope we can take from this and fix the things we need to fix so we''re ready when it comes time to play," Robinson said.
Smith feels the Falcons are coming together each day. He admits they looked "uncomfortable" with the basketball at the start of the season, but he is excited about the team''s potential. He is even more optimistic about what kind of role Hall can play as a leader.
"He is a vocal leader and he is out there rebounding and passing," Smith said. "He is getting a little more comfortable. He is a solid player. We have to get him more shots up. He is attacking the basket, but we have to get him more shots because that is going to open things up for our big guys inside."
n Columbus 62, East Oktibbeha 48 (G): Columbus (3-1) didn''t pull away from the Lady Titans (0-2) until the fourth quarter, when it opened a 46-35 lead on a driving basket by Maggie Proffitt (16 points) with 6 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the game.
Proffitt and Kiandria Patterson (nine points) provided plenty of scoring to complement Cunningham, who flashed a silky smooth jump shot from behind the 3-point line and poise handling the basketball with either hand.
Columbus High coach Yvonne Hairston said Cunningham, a junior guard/forward, will have to play a key role this season on a team that includes eight freshmen and sophomores.
"Chy had a really good offensive game tonight," Hairston said. "She shot the ball extremely well. We have been trying to get her the ball more. This week, we kind of revamped our offense and tried to go inside-outside with her. She can go inside and play the post and the wing to give her some opportunities to score."
Hairston doesn''t believe Cunningham knows how good she can be. She said she works hard, but she doesn''t think she "gets the whole picture of what she needs to do.
"Hopefully she will step into her potential," Hairston said.
Hairston also said the Falcons will need contributions from senior point guard Courtney Cunningham and post players like senior Jessica Richardson to make playing an inside-outside game work.
"Our post players are really undersized and they do a really good job on the offensive boards and play really good defense," Hairston said. "We''re just looking for them to do those small things.
"We''re just hoping to put those pieces of that puzzle together and be really strong."
Alexius Selvie led East Oktibbeha with 13 points, while Kelcie Lanier and Quanisha Doss added 12 and nine points, respectively.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.