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W. Lowndes rallies to edge Columbus by one


Adam Minichino



Antonio Wilson didn''t want to move. 


As the ruckus grew louder around him, Wilson shook his head twice and refused to move from his spot at the free-throw line. 


Finally, Wilson relented and moved to his right to be with his teammates in the huddle. The decision helped West Lowndes High School boys basketball coach Rickie Hill impart a few valuable words. 


Hill took the advice, toed the line, and swished his second free throw through with perfect form to help West Lowndes edge Columbus 55-54 at Columbus High. 


In the girls game, Kiandria Patterson had a game-high 30 points to lead Columbus past West Lowndes 94-28. 


That game lacked the drama of the boys matchup, which saw West Lowndes rally from a 48-40 deficit with 7 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. 


Wilson''s make was his only point of the night, but it was more than enough to help the Panthers (1-1) continue their good fortunes against the Falcons (0-1). West Lowndes beat Columbus in two regular-season games last season. 


"I think he thought if he came over to the huddle and I talked to him it would put more pressure on him," Hill said. "I simply told him to relax and that you can''t lose it right here. You can make the shot and put us ahead, and (if you miss) and we stop hem with .09 seconds left we go to overtime." 


This year, Hill has taken over the program from coach Herman Peters, and the Panthers look to be a team that will continue to rely on their pressure defense and perimeter shooting. 


Tyquan Lucious (game-high 23 points) provided the bulk of the outside shooting. It took all of the Panthers to come together for the pressure defense. Brandon Clark had a layup off a Columbus turnover, Lucious'' layup off another turnover gave West Lowndes the lead for good, 49-48, with 5:24 to go, and Jamaine Humphries steal and Lucious'' dunk provided the exclamation point and pushed the cushion to 51-48. 


"We had picked up some cheap fouls in the first half and I told them to play smart," Hill said. "I think when it got close some of the guys started to play a little more aggressive because they were coming. We wanted to pressure the ball because we felt if we could make them work a little bit on the offensive end we had a good chance of winning." 


From there, West Lowndes missed four free throws in the final 4:04 and at least two offensive rebound putbacks that would have made the finish a little easier. 


Columbus capitalized to inch back into the game. The Falcons, who missed six free throws in the final 4:49, used an offensive rebound putback by Sam Doughty (13 points) and another follow by Doughty with 8.5 seconds remaining to tie the game and send the crowd into a frenzy. 


Columbus coach Sammy Smith said his team got too caught up in the frantic finish, especially when it came to attacking West Lowndes'' pressure defense. 


"The best thing about ninth-graders is they will become 10th-graders," Smith said. "The best thing about 10th-graders is they will become 11th-graders. Experience caught up to us. We knew as the pace of the game got fast it got too fast for our young guys." 


West Lowndes inbounded and had 2.7 seconds left on the clock before the officials recognized Hill wanted a timeout. They re-set the clock to 8.0 seconds and then trimmed it to 5.0 to set the stage for the final drama. 


"They worked extremely hard," Hill said. "They couldn''t have played any harder, but we really have to work on our free throws. I am proud of our guys down the stretch. They really dug in when it got tied and made it happen." 


Smith said his team is bound to experience its share of growing pains this season with a young team. The Falcons lost nearly all of their key contributors from the 2009-10 team that advanced to the Class 6A North State tournament, including nearly all of its primary ballhandlers. Kevin Hargrove, a transfer from West Lowndes, has joined the team, but Smith said he will continue to mix and match the backcourt pieces until he finds the right combination. 


Until then, Smith will preach patience and try to get the Falcons to be the sum of their parts. 


"I can''t give up on them," Smith said. "I have to catch them before they make the mistakes so they won''t be discouraged. ... This is one of the youngest teams I have had in my life (with two seniors)." 


Deontae Jones led Columbus with 14 points, while Demarius Walker had nine. 


In the girls game, Columbus broke out to a 15-0 lead in the first quarter and used a relentless pressure defense to make it difficult for West Lowndes to get the ball across halfcourt. The Lady Falcons forced at least 34 turnovers and had at least 13 assists off those mistakes in an offensive performance that showed promise if only for the fact it showcased the potential of many of the players off Columbus'' bench. Maggie Proffitt and Daisha Williams each had 17 points, while Toni Petty had eight. Brelana Coleman, Carrie Brown, and Brianna Summerville also played well in extended minutes in the second half. 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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