February 3, 2018 10:31:58 PM
BATESVILLE -- Columbus High School boys basketball coach Anthony Carlyle didn't like the first half of his team's Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 2 game against South Panola on Friday night.
Carlyle especially didn't care for his squad's performance on offense.
Columbus made up for things on the defensive end by allowing seven first-half points en route to a 56-23 victory against South Panola.
Columbus (18-6, 5-0 region) won its seventh-straight game to clinch the top seed in the region tournament, which begins Feb. 13 at the South Panola.
"We missed so many shots in the first half," Carlyle said. "(They are) shots we have to make. (They are) shots you make to win a championship. That being said, the defense more than made up for it. Sometimes, your offense doesn't travel. Your defense should always travel. There is not anything to say negatively about what we are doing on the defensive end."
After a region victory against Tupelo on Tuesday night, Carlyle said his team's goal is to hold opponents to two single-digit quarters per game.
Columbus did even better by holding South Panola (6-12, 0-5) to single digits in three quarters. South Panola had five points in the first quarter, two in the second, and six in the fourth. Only a basket as the horn sounded allowed the Tigers to hit 10 in the third.
"With our size and length, we can cause some problems on the defensive end," Carlyle said. "When our team really needed a lift on the offensive side, we turned to our defense. Some steals and some easy baskets is how things finally got going."
Columbus reeled off a 24-0 run to end the first quarter and start the second quarter. The Falcons scored 16 points off turnovers in the run. The Tigers went 10 minutes, 45 seconds without a point.
South Panola scored as time expired and trailed 28-7 at halftime.
Robert Woodard II had 15 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots, and two steals to lead the Falcons. Casey Smith added 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. Denijay Harris added seven points and seven rebounds.
Columbus will face South Panola at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in its region tournament opener.
n In the opener, the Columbus girls avenged their only loss of 2018 with a 57-32 victory.
South Panola (7-11, 3-2) won the first meeting 48-47 in Columbus. Columbus (15-5, 4-1) avenged that defeat and clinched the top seed for the girls region tournament.
"Being 4-1 in region play is very good for this young team," Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston said. "We have placed ourselves in position to be the top seed, and that is huge in a four-team tournament. I am really proud of how hard we played to start the game."
Columbus routed Tupelo 66-40 in what Hairston called the team's "most complete game of the season." The Lady Falcons built on that with another dominating first half.
Columbus opened the game on a 12-3 run. Behind 11 first-quarter points from Hannah White, Columbus led 18-5 after eight minutes. The Lady Falcons ended the half on a 13-3 run to take a 37-11 lead.
"Our offensive execution was great in the first half," Hairston said. "We always play hard on the defensive end. You could tell the players were energized, ready to play, and ready to impose their will. In the third quarter, we got a little complacent. That's a good teaching moment for a young team."
After a sluggish third quarter, Berniya Hardin ended the quarter with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Columbus a 43-20 lead after three quarters.
"We had six points in the third quarter and half of those came on the three to end the quarter," Hairston said. "That's not good. They were more physical than we were that quarter. If you play a team with a few more shooters, they can get back in the game when you only score six points in a quarter.
"We will learn from that. Fortunately, our first half was good enough to carry us."
White had 21 points, five blocks, seven rebounds, and three steals. Hardin had 13 points and five steals.
The Columbus girls will face Oxford at 4 p.m. Feb. 13 in its region tournament opener.
Both Columbus squads will finish the regular season with games Monday at Oxford and Friday at county rival West Lowndes.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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