December 21, 2013 8:28:12 PM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
This isn't Bri Edinburgh's show.
The Columbus High School senior easily could have looked around and realized Kiki Patterson, Daisha Williams, and LaTerrica Jefferson were gone from last season's team and said she was going to be the one to take over as the Lady Falcons' top player.
But Edinburgh has preferred to step back and allow a team concept to blossom. The result has been surprising for a team that lost three players who signed to play basketball in college.
"We started off young, but we are working as a team," Edinburgh said. "We are getting it done. There are going to be a lot of downfalls, but overall we are getting it done."
Columbus continued to surpass the expectations many had for it at the start of the season by winning its games Friday and Saturday at the 17th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic. On Friday, Columbus routed Holt (Ala.) High 53-12. On Saturday, it dispatched Midfield (Ala.) High 47-42 to stretch its record to 7-5.
For Edinburgh, the success hasn't come faster than expected because all 10 of the varsity players have accepted their roles and are doing everything together.
"We had a rough start," Edinburgh said. "Nobody was doing anything right, but we kept it going. We kept each other motivated, and that is what it takes to win."
Even though Edinburgh is one of the team's most experienced players by class in school, she is still inexperienced when it comes to being a team leader, which puts her in a similar position to a lot of her younger teammates on the 2013-14 squad.
In a short amount of time, Edinburgh has seen no one on this team has an attitude. She said the team leaves the drama in the locker room and takes care of business when it is time to play. As a senior point guard, she feels her role is to keep everyone in place.
"I feel like it is a real big role because all eyes are on me," Edinburgh said. "I have to bring it and keep the team motivated. We have to play."
Columbus has to get a little from everyone this season now that Patterson, who signed to play with Mississippi State, Williams, who is a member of the team at Northeast Mississippi Community College, and Jefferson, who is a member of the team at Snead State (Ala.) C.C., are gone. Their graduation left the Lady Falcons without their best ballhandler and scorer, one of their best shooters, and their top inside scoring threat.
Edinburgh didn't have any doubts the Lady Falcons could survive. In fact, she had high expectations for her final high school basketball season, as did Porchia Brooks, the team's other senior. With only two juniors -- Bethany Jones and Asia Joiner -- four sophomores -- Holly Westbrook, Jasmine "Snoop" Johnson, Kayla Rogers, and Rokila Wallace -- and two freshmen -- Kyla Temple and Kiara Jones -- Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston knew things were going to be different this season. She said she and her assistant coaches are doing more coaching and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.
"The girls are being really receptive and that is a good thing because they are not relying on their athletic ability," Hairston said. "They are learning to rely on the fundamentals of the game, and that is what we're trying to teach. They are very young. We have ninth-graders and 10th-graders out there. Bri and Porchia are leading us as seniors, but it is just great because they are listening and learning the game and doing the little things we are asking them to do."
Hairston said it is imperative that a younger team that doesn't have the athletic ability of past Columbus High squads leans on the fundamentals and believes in what the coaches are preaching. She said the team is together and is comfortable with the open player on that play shooting the ball. Hairston said that could change every night, but she said that is OK with the players because they just want to get it done.
"Everything we do, their attitudes are so great because they have to understand they are glorifying God when they are out on the court," Hairston said. "Because of that and that teaching of Christianity, they are bonding together as one because they know our power comes from on high and not from our athletic skills. We're excited."
Wallace and Rogers paced Columbus with 17 and 16 points, respectively, against Holt (Ala.), while Edinburgh and Bethany Jones added six apiece.
Against Midfield (Ala.), Columbus took the lead for good early in the second quarter and weathered every run. After Bethany Jones and Edinburgh each had six points in the first quarter, Columbus' team concept came through in the fourth quarter, as four players scored, Edinburgh ran the point, and Westbrook, Rogers, and Wallace anchored the post. Bethany Jones' 18 points paced the Lady Falcons, while Wallace had five of her 11 in the fourth quarter. Edinburgh added nine points.
Brooks, who said playing defense is her primary role, said time has helped the team come together. She said the Lady Falcons didn't know how to play as a unit when they first started. She admitted it wasn't easy at the beginning, but she credits hard work for making it happen and helping the team prove everybody wrong.
"I think a lot of people thought we would have a terrible season because we no longer have Kiki and Daisha, but that is the good part of our team because now we don't have to depend on that one person to drop 40 points," Brooks said. "Now we depend in everybody to make an assist, to score, or to get a rebound. I like that."
Despite all of the responsibility on her shoulders, Edinburgh maintains it isn't "her" show and that it is all of the Lady Falcons' show.
"Everybody has their role to play," Edinburgh said, "and we're playing. We have talked about it, and everybody plays their role and knows what their role is."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.