March 12, 2016 11:40:51 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
JACKSON -- History.
Luther Riley didn't hesitate when he was hired last year to say his goal was to lead the Columbus High School boys basketball team to a state championship.
On Saturday night, Riley and the Falcons realized that goal. In the process, they made history.
Javontae McDavid hit two four throws in the final 17 seconds left to help Columbus beat reigning champion Starkville 37-33 in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A State championship at Mississippi Coliseum.
"It is an unbelievable feeling," said McDavid, one of 10 seniors on the roster. "These are moments that you dream about doing. ... We are just thankful for being able to do this together."
The win gave Riley his sixth state title, including the Grand Slam title he won at Provine High, and helped Columbus (27-5) win its first state championship.
McDavid led Columbus with 13 points. Cameron Douglas (10 points) was the only other Falcon in double figures. Robert Woodard II and Demetrice Clopton had six points. Woodard II was named the game's MVP.
Mississippi State signee Tyson Carter led Starkville (27-6), the 2015 Class 6A champion, with 12 points.
McDavid said a lot of work on free throws in practice paid off at the right time. He said he was struggling from the free-throw line in the middle of the season, so he said he needed to get extra shots up to correct it. The work paid dividends Saturday night, as McDavid hit nothing but net on all four attempts.
"I made sure when the time came and they needed me that I could come through," McDavid said. "As a shooter, you always think every shot that you're going to shoot your going to make. I was feeling calm and very poised. I knew I needed to knock it down.
"I told my teammates I wasn't going to leave Jackson until I got a gold ball."
Darrius Agnew rebounded a miss by Carter and scored with seven seconds left to cut Columbus' lead to 35-33. The Yellow Jackets fouled on the inbounds attempt and sent McDavid to the free-throw line with five seconds left. Just like he did the previous trip, McDavid hit both ends of the one-and-one to help seal the deal. The first two free throws came after Columbus held the ball for 1 minute, 3 seconds leading 33-31.
Columbus maintained a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter until Tyson Carter drained a deep 3-pointer with Woodard II on him to tie the game at 29. McDavid broke the tie at the 3:03 mark with a jumper at the top of the key that made it 33-31.
Columbus has a chance to extend the lead, but it committed a turnover after trying to hold the ball. Starkville, though, turned the ball over on its next possession.
Columbus trailed by as many as eight points in the third quarter before it used a 10-0 run to re-take the lead. Clopton had four points in the run and an assist to help the Falcons re-gain the momentum.
Starkville helped Columbus' cause by missing three 3-pointers and committing two turnovers.
Starkville missed its first 17 shots from the field. It didn't get its first field goal until the 6:21 mark of the second quarter on an offensive rebound putback by Jesse Little. Still, the Yellow Jackets trailed 11-3 because Columbus was hurting itself with turnovers. The Falcons appeared to be going too fast and had two traveling calls and another lost ball out of bounds in the second quarter. The giveaways allowed the Yellow Jackets to close the half on a 16-3 run to take a 17-14 lead.
The absence of TJ Gray also hampered Columbus. The senior guard started the game shadowing Carter, but Gray picked up his second foul with two seconds left in the first quarter and didn't play in the second quarter. Carter was 1 of 3 from the field and had two points and two assists in the first 16 minutes. Keith Harris (six points) was the high scorer for both teams in the first half.
Starkville was 7 of 25 from the field (28 percent), while Columbus was 6 of 21 (28.6 percent) with 10 turnovers.
The first half had a decidedly defensive tone, which was different from the two games the teams played in the regular season. Starkville won 80-61 at home, while Columbus won 70-47 at home.
Riley didn't hesitate to lean on Douglas, Gray, and McDavid to hold the basketball in the final 80 seconds. He said he also knew McDavid was going to do his job as a point guard and make his free throws.
"There was no doubt in my mind he was going to make the free throws," Riley said. "I told him a point guard lives for things like this."
NOTES: The game started 1 hour, 15 minutes after the scheduled 8 p.m. tip. The Murrah High girls beat Callaway 54-52 in double overtime in the game before the Class 6A boys title game. ... Prior to the Starkville-Columbus game, Starkville's Little received the Scholar-Athlete award. ... On Friday, Carter and Clopton were named to the 12-player team that will represent Mississippi in the 26th-annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game, which will be Friday at Mississippi College in Clinton. The girls game will be at 5 p.m. The boys game will be at 7 p.m.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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