December 21, 2009 11:46:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Horne is smiling.
The former Columbus High School teacher and scorekeeper, who passed away in 2003, would have loved the atmosphere Friday at Saturday at the 13th annual Columbus Christmas Invitational that has been named in his honor.
Not only was there a packed house both days for the 16-game event, but the fans also had a chance to watch some of the region''s best talent.
It only adds to the festivities at a holiday tournament when two teams ranked No. 1 in the state lose. That''s what happened Saturday when the Greenville-Weston girls basketball team, ranked No. 2 in the Clarion Ledger''s Super 10, bounced back from a district loss Friday at home to Vicksburg to beat No. 1 Raymond 56-50.
In the event''s final game, Starkville used some last-second heroics from senior Rashad Perkins to hold on for an 81-79 victory against No. 1 Province.
The smile gave Starkville High coach Greg Carter plenty of reasons to be happy for the holidays.
"(The victory) lets us know that we''re pretty good, but, at the same time, we had such a hot start and they were able to get back into it," said Carter, whose team improved to 10-0. We made a bunch of mistakes. We missed layups and that was our worst free-throw shooting game of the season. Defensively we had some breakdowns and there are some things we still need to correct to get better."
Edward Townsel (21 points) and Perkins (16), a Southern Miss signee, helped Starkville break to leads of 11-0, 19-3, and 26-8 before Provine began the slow climb back.
The Yellow Jackets had an answer for every run and kept the lead at double digits until midway through the fourth quarter. A steal and a layup by Tevin Singleton and a three-point play by Jarvis Summers (24 points) sparked an 11-0 run that helped Province close the gap to 75-74 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds.
Thanks to its pressure defense, Provine needed only one minute to make it a one-point game. The pressure defense forced Starkville four turnovers.
A 3-pointer by Jarren Mallory tied the game at 79 with one minute remaining. Jaquez Johnson hit 1 of 2 free throws with 46.3 seconds left to give the Yellow Jackets the lead. On its next possession, Provine rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Mallory and had what looked to be an easy putback by Jalen Courtney, a LSU signee. But Perkins came from the side and swatted the ball away. He then made a steal on the inbounds pass and flipped the ball to Craig Armstead, who hit 1 of 2 free throws. Townsel''s steal of the inbounds pass sealed the deal.
"That was really satisfying (to win the game that way," Carter said. "(Rashad) kind of anticipated they were going to Jalen Courtney and he shot the gap on it. On the blocked shot he came out of nowhere. He was outside of the lane and came back to block that one. It was a phenomenal athletic play."
Greenville-Weston coach Curtis Stovall also saw plenty of stellar plays in his team''s victory against Raymond.
Senior guard Breanna Lewis scored a game-high 30 points and helped offset a 25-point night and a 3-pointer from halfcourt by Raymond''s Valencia McFarland.
Both players will play basketball at the University of Mississippi next season.
Stovall wasn''t sure if the victory would help his team move into the No. 1 spot in the rankings this week, but he liked the way his team responded after letting a victory get away in an important district matchup Friday night.
"We didn''t bring the defensive intensity (Friday night). We were thinking about today (Saturday)," Stovall said. "It is hard to teach kids patience. We had a 12-point lead (midway through the third quarter) against Vicksburg and stopped doing the things we did to get the lead."
Stovall said the team had a "nice come to Jesus meeting" after the game and a good workout Saturday morning. He feels the players, particularly Lewis, realized they should have done better against Vicksburg and wanted to come out Saturday to do better.
"Two years ago, she probably would be looking for something like that (being named Miss Basketball in the state of Mississippi)," Stovall said. "Right now, I think winning a state title means more to her than anything. She will forego that one just to get that ring. She is a super kid, and she is full of energy all of the time."
Despite a 58-49 loss to Marion, Ark., Columbus High coach Sammy Smith had to be upbeat. His Falcons refused to quit and shows signs of tenacity that he thinks will serve it well later in the season.
The Falcons (7-7) trailed 39-20 at halftime after scoring only one point in the second quarter. But disciplined play, aggressive defense, and strong rebounding help Columbus get within six at one point, but it couldn''t get any closer.
"We don''t run as fast everybody and jump as high as everybody, but when we stick to the game plan we do very well," Smith said. "They became very coachable, but then we had turnovers and that broke our momentum."
Smith thanked the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wendy''s, and all of the individuals who made financial contributions to help make the tournament a success. On Thursday, members of the CHS boys basketball team were at the Food Giant in Columbus to give out $200 in gift certificates for food to members of the community.
Proceeds from the money raised at the tournament also will go to a scholarship for a deserving Columbus High senior.
Those two things are reason enough to smile. Plenty of exciting basketball gave the fans, players, and coaches even more reason to be merry heading into the holidays.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.