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Fast start carries Columbus basketball team past Oxford


Scott Walters



Football coaches typically start games with 10 to 15 scripted plays. 


These plays have been worked on in practice and are designed to get the team off to a good start on the offensive side of the ball. 


Typically, basketball coaches do not have the luxury of scripting plays. 


However, coach Anthony Carlyle did get to do one such play Friday night. 


"Casey (Smith) has been putting in a lot of extra work," Carlyle said. "He has spent an extra 45 or 50 minutes with me each day this week working on his shot. In this game, he was going to take first shot. 


"We wanted to get him to his spot on the left wing. We needed him to get off to a good start." 


Smith hit a 3-point shot from that wing off the tip. The Falcons quickly scored nine points in the first 45 seconds. 


From there, it was easy coasting as Columbus routed Oxford 55-32 in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 2 contest played at the Falcon Nest. 


Smith scored on the first possession and then Denijay Harris scored the remainder of the points on that 9-0 run. 


"This is when it is fun," Columbus senior Robert Woodard, II said. "When everybody is involved, it is fun. When more than one guy hits their first shot, it is fun. We talked all week about a strong start." 


After Smith and Harris were ignited early, Oxford (14-3, 1-1) was undone by a dominant night from the Mississippi State signee, Woodard. 


Woodard finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, six steals, five assists and six blocks. Four of those blocks came in a first quarter, where Columbus was dominant in every phase of the game, building a 19-9 lead. 


"Yes, that was a fun game," Smith said. "(Woodard) does what (Woodard) does. The rest of us are just along to help out here and there. Defensively, we have been really good of late. The coaches always stress playing fundamentally-sound defense. We are chasing that gold ball." 


Columbus (14-6, 2-0) won a MHSAA Class 6A state championship two seasons ago. Now, Woodard, Smith and Harris headline a senior class ready to win another. Carlyle in his first season at the school after state championship success at Velma Jackson. 


"It's all about defense," Carlyle said. "This is three games in a row where we held the opponent to 40 points or less. That's special. This is the time of year you want to be rounding into form." 


Columbus held New Hope to 27 points, Forest Hill to 42 points and Oxford to 32 points. For the Chargers, seven of those points came against reserves in the final 75 seconds. 


"The biggest thing is getting better," Woodard said. "This team is really hungry. When we are locked in and focused for four quarters, we are a difficult matchup. The coaches have us locked in on playing some dominating defense. That is how we can get to the top." 


Columbus held a 26-18 halftime lead and then removed all doubt from the contest with a 15-2 run to start the third quarter. Woodard did most of the heavy lifting on the offensive end, while R.J. Deloach and Greg King were stellar on the defensive end. 


Harris finished with 15 points, while Smith had seven points and five assists. For Oxford, J.J. Pegues had 11 points. 


Like most schools, Columbus was trying to overcome a disjointed practice schedule due to weather concerns. Now, the Falcons will face a flurry of games over the final three weeks of the season. Region play continues Tuesday at Tupelo. 


"We are 2-0 in the region," Carlyle said. "That's a good place to be. I like how this team is coming together at the right time. This is where you make your push." 


In the opener, the Columbus girls bounced back from a tough loss in their region opener to beat Oxford, 45-31. 


"We really just needed a win," Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston said. "I really didn't care how it looked. We played well in spurts. However, not playing games, not practicing, that hurts a team. Basketball is all about consistency. I just wanted to see us take a court and find a way to win. We did just that." 


Hannah White led Columbus (12-5, 1-1) with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Deryona Smith had seven points and nine rebounds. 


A 3-point basket by White in the closing seconds of the first quarter gave the Lady Falcons the lead for good. Columbus would stretch that lead to 23-17 at halftime. 


Danyjhia Jackson gave the Lady Falcons a big spark on the defensive side with three steals during a critical 9-0 run late in the third quarter. White was doing the work on the offensive end as she scored 11 straight points for her team. 


Oxford (3-16, 0-2) was held without a point for the final 6:45 of the first half and to two field goals for the first seven minutes of the second half. Christina Owens had eight points and six rebounds for the Lady Chargers. 


The Lady Falcons were able to get the ball inside consistency but failed to finish some plays. Eleven missed free throws also hurt the cause. 


"We weren't as crisp on the offensive end as we would have liked," Hairston said. "We made up for that on the defensive end." 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott


Scott is sports copy editor and reporter


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