Columbus guard Berniya Hardin shoots a 3-pointer against Tupelo. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
January 19, 2019 9:15:03 PM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
Columbus High School girls basketball coach Yvonne Hairston likes to keep the team's suffocating press and trap defense in her pocket until its needed.
Showing it too early, particularly before halftime, allows opponents a better chance to adjust to it, she said. But when facing district rival Tupelo, a team built on quickness and perimeter shooting, it's a go-to defense more often than not.
Friday, with both teams tied atop Class 6A, Region 2 at 2-0, Hairston applied the pressure at the start of the second quarter with the Lady Falcons trailing 13-6. Columbus would force eight Tupelo turnovers in the quarter, allow just three points and take a five-point lead into the break. The Lady Falcons would take its foot off the pedal only briefly later in the second half, en route to a 65-49 win.
"We had to match Tupelo's intensity," Hairston said. "We had to make sure we didn't give them any looks. I just wasn't happy with the looks, and we did what we had to do."
Hairston took out guards Jatyler Turner and Berniya Hardin and rotated players around Hannah White, Bri Smith and Deryona Smith. White, who finished with a game-high 22 points, was the only Columbus player to play the entire game, Hairston said.
"That's my pressing team ... that's what we call them," she said. "I didn't feel like Tupelo's guards were really strong with the ball tonight, and I knew we could get some traps in. (DJ) Jackson and (Aniya) Saddler finished off some things for us. We're kind of tough to beat when we get in there like that, and sometimes we don't get the chance to because a lot of teams are bigger than us."
Columbus continued to turn its pressure defense into offense after the break, building a lead to 42-25 by the end of the third behind an and-1 from Jabria Snell and fast-break layups from Saddler. White capped the quarter by banking in a 3-pointer.
"The pressure we bring, it makes teams nervous," Saddler said. "But you have to bring at every spot."
Hairston said her team's defensive performance ranked among the top of games she's coached at Columbus (17-2, 3-0).
"We didn't do the same press in the second half and wanted [Tupelo] to adjust," Hairston said. "We put something else in so they wouldn't know what to do. We were fortunate tonight to make the adjustments, and the team got it done."
The win was pivotal to Columbus controlling the district, as it will play three straight district games, including a road match at Tupelo on Jan. 29. The Lady Falcons have won back-to-back games since losing to Center Hill on Jan. 8.
Tupelo was paced by forward Chemya Carouthers, who finished with 20 points, including nine of the team's 13 points in the first quarter. The Lady Wave had won eight straight games since losing to Starkville high on Dec. 15.
Tupelo boys 56, Columbus 44
Tijah McCrary hit a pair of free throws to cut Columbus' deficit to six with two minutes left against Tupelo, but the Golden Wave closed the game on an 8-2 run to seal the win.
Tupelo is now in first-place in Class 6A, Region 2 with wins against all three teams.
The Golden Wave (13-8, 3-0) held a double-digit lead for much of the second half, extending to as many as 17 points before the Falcons made their run.
Columbus (8-12, 2-1) had won three of its last four entering Friday's game, including region games against Oxford and South Panola.
Greg King led the Falcons with 16 points, including 13 in the second half. McCrary finished with 11.
Tupelo has won six of its last seven games since a three-game skid to Provine, Starkville and Jesuit (New Orleans).
Columbus will face all three district opponents in its next three games between Jan. 25 and Feb. 1
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