January 5, 2013 11:26:26 PM
With one of the state's premier players in the lineup, the Columbus High School girls basketball team has to get others players involved.
After All-State guard Kiki Patterson scored 23 points in the first half Friday night, Tupelo made a defensive adjustment. The Lady Falcons then had to count on others to complete a 50-49 Class 6A, Region 2 victory.
"It was my job to get my teammates involved early in the game," Patterson said. "I tried to make that extra pass or set up that extra shot. You never know when the situation is going to come around where other players have to step up. Fortunately tonight, they did just that."
Columbus (8-5, 2-0 region) has looked for consistency this season. The Lady Falcons looked well on their way after playing one of their most complete first halves of the season.
In the first quarter, Patterson scored nine straight points to erase a 6-3 deficit. In the second quarter, Patterson scored 14 of her team's 17 points. Columbus also clicked on defense and built a 30-20 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Tupelo aggressively trapped Patterson in the backcourt and quickly tightened the game.
"We have not seen a lot of (box-in-one) this year," Columbus coach Yvette Hairston said. "We have to go in and find a play or two that works in the situation. To their credit, they changed defensive looks and we could not generate any offense. That is the good thing about playing a region opponent. You see things and you will be more prepared for them next time."
Patterson only attempted one shot in the third quarter. Columbus had a stretch where she went more than four minutes without getting a touch.
"At halftime, we were up by 10," Patterson said. "After that, we started turning the ball over and really paid for it. In the fourth quarter, we came out with the mind-set we had to take care of the ball. We really haven't done well against pressure this year. Now that we are getting into the district games, it is a learning experience. It is something we have to get better at."
The Lady Falcons still led 34-25 with 4 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter. Tupelo (7-7, 0-1) forced turnovers on seven of the next nine possessions and scored the next 10 points. Columbus didn't help itself at the free-throw line with 10 second-half misses.
Patterson split a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of the quarter to tie the game at 35 after three quarters.
"In the fourth quarter, we knew somebody had to step up," Columbus senior guard Daisha Williams said. "We let them back in the game because we weren't taking care of the ball. When they shut down Kiki like that, that just meant others players had to step it up."
Columbus received several key contributions in the fourth quarter, starting with Williams, who had five points, including a critical putback basket and three other offensive rebounds. LaTerrica Jefferson had two monster blocked shots late as the Lady Falcons protected a one-point lead.
Still, Columbus again appeared ready to pull away. Williams' putback capped a grueling possession for a 44-41 lead. Tupelo was quickly finding foul trouble, as a pair of starters fouled out.
Two free throws by Williams and two more by Patterson gave Columbus a 48-42 lead with 2:45 remaining. A running jumper in the lane by Patterson pushed the advantage to 50-43.
From there, the Lady Falcons held on, or as Coach Hairston put it, "somehow, through the grace of God, we found a way."
An old-fashioned 3-point play by Braxton Thomas brought the Lady Wave within 50-48 with 37 seconds remaining. Tupelo got a steal in the backcourt, but Casey Marshall hit only one free throw on a two-shot attempt.
On offense, Columbus had a fast-break layup attempt go awry, giving Tupelo the rebound with 17 seconds left. The Lady Wave got two shots at a game-winner, but Jefferson blocked the first. The second went off the back iron.
"It's a region win and we will be happy to take it," Hairston said. "We blocked out much better and we outrebounded them. A lot of the things we have been working on practice, we did really well in this game. The thing is turnovers and touches. We just can't keep turning the ball over like this, and we have to find ways to keep Kiki involved when the other team is trying to prevent that."
Patterson had a game-high 31 points. Williams added nine points and five assists.
Thomas had 15 points to lead Tupelo.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter