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Local basketball teams set for districts

 

Adam Minichino

 

The second season begins tonight. 

 

It’s time for the area basketball teams to put the ups and downs of the regular season behind them and to take care of business. 

 

In Class 6A, the Columbus High boys (12-11) will take on Tupelo at Tupelo High in the first round of the District 4 tournament at Tupelo High. The CHS girls (10-11) will take on South Panola at 4 p.m. today. 

 

Coach Sammy Smith’s Falcons will have to rebound from a 61-57 overtime loss to West Lowndes on Friday. Columbus lost senior guard Michael Hall to an ankle sprain that forced him to miss the last part of the third quarter and the rest of the game.  

 

Foul problems and turnovers also prevented the Falcons from being able to protect a seven-point lead with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining in regulation. 

 

Columbus lost to West Lowndes 58-51 in the first meeting in November. Despite the loss Friday night, Smith feels the Falcons have improved, but he isn’t sure how the squad is going to rebound, especially against a tough Tupelo High team playing on its home floor. Columbus split its two regular-season meetings against Tupelo. 

 

“I want to think we are a better team,” Smith said. “We have kids who are not grasping it all of the ay like we needed them to. If you can’t discipline kids to do the right thing it is hard to execute down the stretch. It was hard for us to execute (Friday night) down the stretch.” 

 

Smith said he has to do a better job of preparing Columbus for Tuesday night. He said he has “great kids” who know what they will face tonight. The key will be to put all of the distractions aside and not make any excuses. 

 

“We have to go up there and do what we have to do,” Smith said. 

 

Smith said he will look to seniors like Hall, Herman Roberts, Akeem Toppin and Bobby Wrench to set the example tonight so the Falcons can extend their season. 

 

“(Friday night) hopefully was a learning experience for everybody,” Smith said. 

 

Starkville High boys coach Greg Carter’s team is coming off a 75-33 victory against Noxubee County. The Yellow Jackets (22-2) will try to extend their season at 5:30 p.m. against South Panola. 

 

The senior tandem of Rashad Perkins and Edward Townsel has proven to be a difficult duo to stop, but Carter said team basketball will be crucial if the Yellow Jackets want to realize their goal and play for a state title in Jackson. 

 

“Those two guys can’t win every game by themselves,” Carter said. “We have got to get everybody else playing well, and it is more than scoring. It is playing defense, rebounding, and passing. We have got to have everybody playing well and playing well together.” 

 

Carter feels his team is “very focused” coming off its latest victory. He said the players have talked and talked and talked about making it to Jackson, so now is the time to make good on all of the discussion. 

 

“I think we’re prepared for it,” Carter said. “The thing about the postseason is your mind-set has to change. This is the time of year that if you lose your season could be over. The margin for error is smaller, so you have to play a little better than you have been playing. You have to be one step quicker and a little tougher than you have been playing. You have to be able to step up and get it done.” 

 

The semifinal winners will play at 8 p.m. Friday. 

 

Columbus girls coach Yvonne Hairston hopes to have freshman point guard Kiki Patterson (torn ligaments in her ankle) back for its game at 4 p.m. today against South Panola. Columbus lost both regular-season meetings to South Panola. 

 

Against West Lowndes, freshman Maggie Proffitt scored a game-high 25 points and Courtney Cunningham added the go-ahead basket to help the Lady Falcons avoid the upset. 

 

Hairston said the Lady Falcons, who had junior Chy Cunningham transfer to Tupelo High right around Christmas, were in both games against South Panola and will have to play a more complete game if they want to advance. 

 

“We were in the first ballgame until the fourth quarter and in the second game until the third quarter,” Hairston said. “I am excited because it is a neutral site.” 

 

Hairston said freshman Daisha Williams played well against West Lowndes, and she hopes all of the Lady Falcons can deliver tonight. 

 

“We’re asking them to grow up real fast on Tuesday night,” Hairston said.  

 

In Class 5A, the New Hope High boys (22-3) will take on Saltillo in the District tournament at Saltillo High, while the New Hope High girls will face Oxford. 

 

New Hope boys coach said the Trojans, who are the top seed, have rebounded from district losses to Oxford and West Point are getting back to the kind of defense they played at the start of the season. 

 

New Hope offered a glimpse of that defense last week in victories against Caledonia, Amory, and Sulligent, and now McBrayer wants the Trojans to raise their level again. 

 

“I feel like we have started to shoot the ball better and we’re getting back to what we were doing better earlier in the year,” McBrayer said. “We’re start to defend better, which is what we’re going to have to do to have success at this time of year.” 

 

New Hope defeated Saltillo both times in the regular season, but McBrayer knows his tam won’t look past tonight. West Point and Oxford will meet at 8:30 tonight in the other semifinal. The winners will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday.  

 

“The signs are there (that the team is coming around). We just need to bring a lot of effort and energy and get after people defensively for us to move along in the playoffs,” McBrayer said. “I feel like we’re headed in the right direction. How fast (we’ll get there) is the question.” 

 

In the girls side of the tournament, West point comes in as the top seed. Coach Jemmye Ann Helms said the Lady Green Wave, who play host Saltillo at 4 p.m., have made up for some cold shooting with fine team play. She said the team has rebounded the ball and defended extremely well to put it in position to get to the North Half State tournament. 

 

“Our kids didn’t get frustrated when they didn’t shoot the ball well,” Helms said. “The kids responded well and started playing better together. I am proud of our kids.” 

 

West Point beat Saltillo twice in the regular season, but Helms knows the third time will be even tougher. She hopes the third attempt to beat Saltillo won’t prove to be a problem. 

 

“Saltillo plays hard, they are well coached, they are very fundamental, they move well without the ball, and they play hard defense,” Helms said. “I am a little nervous playing them, but I believe in my kids.” 

 

Helms praised the play of post players Kourtney Crowley, Wilma Davis, Satonya Cantrell, and Ashley Robinson for their improved play and unselfishness when faced with double teams. 

 

The semifinal winners will play at 6 p.m. Friday.  

 

In Class 4A, Caledonia High will play host to the girls and boys District tournament. The Caledonia boys will face Noxubee County at 5:30 p.m., while the Caledonia girls will take on Amory at 7 p.m. 

 

Noxubee County boys coach T.J. Billups said his Tigers (13-10) could have earned a higher seed in the tournament but let at least two regular-season district games slip away. He feels the girls team, which will play without junior standout Jeraldine Campbell, is in good position as the No. 4 seed. 

 

The question for both teams is how they will regroup from losses to Starkville on Friday. 

 

Billups believes the boys have put the 42-point loss behind them and are ready to begin a second season. 

 

“The only thing we can do is forget about it,” Billups said. “There is nothing we can take away from that game that is going to help us. We have to do our best to get it out of our minds and get ready for the tournament.” 

 

Billups said the game was “one of those night” when his team couldn’t do much of anything right. He doesn’t believe the effort is any indication of how good his team is, which he hopes his players will prove tonight. 

 

“They put it behind them and had a good practice,” Billups said. “They are focused on winning their first-round game against Caledonia.”

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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