December 19, 2009 11:07:00 PM
Columbus High School girls basketball Yvonne Hairston likes what her team can become.
With freshmen Keke Patterson and Maggie Proffitt in the starting lineup, the Lady Falcons have players who can be the foundation of a program.
The Joe Horne Christmas Classic provided those players a learning experience.
After losing to Raymond 64-45 on the Friday night, Columbus came back Saturday to dominate Tuscaloosa Central 63-42.
Patterson (22 points Saturday) said she is eager to keep learning to help Columbus become a team to beat.
"We''ve just got to take things that coach teaches us, learn from these games, get into a good habit and develop it," Patterson said. "It''s a maturing stage. We learn things, we come to practice and work hard. It should pay off in the long run."
Patterson hit the first 12 points of the game as the Lady Falcons (5-6) took a 16-6 lead after the first quarter.
Hairston wants to see Patterson get off to similar good starts in the future.
"That''s a key for us," Hairston said. "It''s a lot to ask of a freshman, but that''s one of those things we need."
Chy Cunningham took over the scoring load in the second quarter, pouring in 10 points to help Columbus extend the margin to 34-15 at halftime.
Hairston used the second half to watch different combinations. Sometimes she was pleased and sometimes she wasn''t, but was overall happy with the execution.
"We did some of the things we wanted to do," Hairston said. "We''ve been playing well, but have been playing really good competition. It kind of got a little sloppy in the third quarter, but we pulled it back together. We just thank God for the victory.
"Tuscaloosa Central was competitive, but we did the things we needed to do to make us better. We''re trying to get better and better each game and I thought we handled the pressure really well."
Proffitt scored 14 points and combined with Patterson for 36 of the Lady Falcons'' 63 points. Cunningham added 19 points.
n Starkville 67, East Oktibbeha 35 (G): The Lady Titans finally got their shot at "big cousin," but didn''t put up much of a fight.
East Oktibbeha High girls coach Randy Brooks used the reference because Starkville High is a Class 6A school located in the same county.
As the Lady Yellow Jackets (9-1) jumped out to a 27-10 lead after the first quarter, Brooks was surprised to sense his squad was "a little intimidated."
"We rarely get a chance to play Starkville," Brooks said. "I liken them to a big cousin you''ve been looking up to and now you get your chance to play against them. I told (the Lady Titans) they had been asking for this game all season. Now you''ve got it, you''ve got to go out and play."
Instead, Starkville expanded its advantage to 44-17 at halftime and 59-29 after the third quarter.
Despite the rivalry aspect of the matchup, coach Kristi Williams said the Lady Jackets viewed East Oktibbeha as just another opponent.
"Our team was ready to come out, play another ballgame and get another win under our belt which we were able to do," Williams said. "The first couple of minutes we didn''t come out playing hard, but after those first couple of minutes, we were able to gather ourselves and play more relaxed. I was pleased with the effort we presented early and we were able to continue that momentum throughout the rest of the game.
"We want to impress upon the girls to do what the coaches ask and always look to be the very best no matter what the score is. If we''re up 30, we need to make plays like we''re down 10. That''s what I expect and I was able to evaluate some of the players we can count on and fine tune some of the things they don''t do well all of the time."
Kala Williams led a balanced scoring effort for Starkville with 12 points, while Johniece Moore, Shay Bonner, and Laretha Williams added 10 points each.
"As the games come, you never know what''s going to happen in that last game of the season or first round of the playoffs, so we need for everyone to be alert and be ready," Williams said.
East Oktibbeha (4-6) didn''t have a player score in double digits. Joslyn Gillespie led the way with eight.
Still, Williams was impressed by the scrappy Lady Titans.
"They play with a lot of effort and don''t give up," Williams said. "They got down early, but I never saw them give up on the idea of still winning the game and that''s something you can''t teach."
East Oktibbeha (4-6) still has games remaining on the schedule against Class 4A Noxubee County and Class 3A Kemper County, so Brooks knows there will be more opportunities to grow before getting into the meat of its Class A, Region 3 schedule.
"In every opportunity we can, we want to get them a learning experience and toughen us up for the schedule we play in the months of January and February," Brooks said.
n Raymond 64, Columbus 45 (G): The Lady Falcons had a hard time matching Janairrika Bland on Friday.
Bland, a Southern Mississippi signee, scored 24 points, including eight in the third quarter that helped break open a close game.
"Bland is really good," Hairston said. "There was nothing we could do to stop her. We tried everything we could. We fronted her, put a girl behind her, and played good help side, but she''s just good."
Columbus only trailed 27-24 at halftime, but fell behind the defending Class 3A champions 46-33 after the third quarter. Raymond is ranked No. 1 in the Clarion-Ledger Super 10 poll.
"They aren''t ranked up there for nothing," Hairston said.
Proffitt led the Lady Falcons with 18 points and Courtney Cunningham added 11 points.
n Starkville 69, Tuscaloosa Central 53 (G): The Lady Yellow Jackets survived a sluggish start and easily won their first game of the Joe Horne Christmas Classic.
After taking a 21-12 lead after the first quarter, Starkville saw Tuscaloosa Central cut its margin to 27-23 in the second quarter. A putback by Bonner got the Lady Yellow Jackets going again and they went on to lead at halftime 45-36.
"Unfortunately, we''ve had several games where we don''t get out doing like we should and that''s something we''ve got to get better at as the season progresses," Williams said.
Bonner hit 10 of 17 shots from the free-throw line and scored 25 points.
"Shay is one of my senior leaders and she shows that leadership on the floor," Williams said. "I was really pleased with her effort on both ends of the floor."
Courtney Moore added 19 points for Starkville, while Kala Williams had 18 and Johniece Moore had 11.
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