December 19, 2009 11:05:00 PM
On the surface, the Noxubee County High School basketball teams have a lot going for them.
The Tigerettes enter the next to last week of 2009 at 8-3, while the Tigers are 8-4.
But Noxubee County High basketball coach T.J. Billups doesn''t want the players on both teams to be fooled into thinking they have accomplished anything or that those records mean they are certified as good teams.
Instead, Billups would prefer if his players did more of the little things to give him the confidence to believe both teams can improve on those records.
"The records are really fool''s gold," Billups said. "I know what''s ahead for the girls and the boys. If we''re not taking care of the little things, we can beat some teams, but, later on down the line, that is going to affect us (and we''re not going to be able to win those games)."
Billups said the "little things" affected both teams Friday night on day one of the 13th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational at Columbus High.
Turnovers, missed layups, and an inability to block out on free throws plagued the girls down the stretch in a 62-58 loss to Meridian.
In the second game, the boys squandered a chance to cut into a six-point deficit late in the third quarter and then watched as Meridian used a 16-0 run the end the frame en route to an 89-68 victory.
"We made one turnover an they capitalized and we had another turnover and they capitalized," Billups said of the boys game. "That''s what good teams do, they take turnovers and turn them into points. Meridian is a very good team. We just never could get back into a groove."
An offensive rebound follow by Howard Spann helped Noxubee County to close to 56-50 with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter. But on its next possession Meridian benefited from a block call on Noxubee County that could have went as a charge on Matthew Hurn, who completed the three-point play to ignite the game-changing run.
Noxubee County committed three costly turnovers and missed four shots from the field in the run. Billups even was whistled for a technical foul for arguing a call.
"Our problem as been focus at the free-throw line, focus before the game, focus on the scouting report," Billups said. "They''re just not taking it serious. They''re not believing. They think we''re already a good team, and we have to be focused on the little things."
Billups said the Tigers (8-4) have to do a better job of boxing out and taking care of the basketball, and stepping in on charges.
Dontavious Singleton paced Noxubee County with 16 points.
Junior Rodney Hood, who has received offers from the University of Florida, Mississippi State, and Georgia Tech and who is interested in the University of Mississippi and Alabama, had 20 points.
In the girls game, Jeraldine Campbell paced the Tigerettes with 28 points and 15 rebounds.
Noxubee County also received strong play in stretches from post players Ciera Chandler and Jasmine Little and from guard Aja Forte, but the team wasn''t consistent for 32 minutes.
As a result, lapses in the final three minutes led to a turnover on an inbounds pass. With the game tied at 56, Meridian took advantage of the turnover and held the ball, which forced Noxubee County to come out of its zone with a little more than a minute remaining.
Noxubee County appeared to catch a break when Etrareo Warren missed two free throws, but a failed box out allowed Warren to rebound her second miss.
Warren hit the first free throw and missed the second, but Reyada Stinner grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled, and hit to free throws to make it 59-56 with 27.5 seconds to go.
Campbell turned the ball over bringing it up on the Tigerettes next possession, which enabled Meridian to tack on two more free throws with 14.5 seconds left that virtually sealed the deal.
"I can recall four missed layups (earlier in the second half)," Billups said. "We also gave up two offensive rebounds at the free-throw line back to back, which they capitalized on."
Billups said the girls had been playing well entering Friday''s game. He said Meridian''s size and higher level of competition served as a "wake-up call" for his squad.
"I think we were riding a little too high after how we have been playing the past three or four games," Billups said. "It is always good to play good competition before you go into district competition."
Billups said Noxubee County will travel to Jackson on Dec. 28 to get a taste of the competition against some of the state''s perennial powers.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.