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Columbus breaks through against Starkville in overtime

 

Scott Walters

 

After waiting several seasons for a basketball win over arch-rival Starkville, the Columbus High School boys' team was more than willing to wait four more minutes. 

 

Columbus junior Jason Davis hit the game-tying basket at the end of regulation and the homestanding Falcons then dominated in overtime to post a hard-fought 70-62 victory over the Yellow Jackets Tuesday night. 

 

"It felt really great to come in here and get a win against Starkville," Columbus senior center Devin Berry said. "This has been something that has been really hard to do. We really wanted to do it in our house. This was a special win for me as a senior. Even though it is just one game, this win really means a lot." 

 

Starkville posted a 48-46 victory when the teams met in Starkville on Nov. 13. Columbus avenged that defeat along with the other recent ones in an equally-thrilling contest. The lead changed hands several times, with Columbus seizing complete control in the overtime period. 

 

"We felt really good once the game got into overtime," Columbus junior point guard C.J. Scott said. "We thought this would be a close game the entire night. It was just a matter of executing our offense and continuing to make plays." 

 

Offensive execution loomed large in the final minute of regulation time. 

 

The Falcons trailed by two points inside the final minute of regulation. On one possession, Columbus attempted a home run pass length of the court only to have the ball intercepted in the lane. On the next Columbus possession, the Starkville defense forced a held ball. 

 

Still a pair of missed free throws allowed the Falcons one last opportunity in regulation. With six seconds left, the Falcons had the ball on their offensive end of the floor. 

 

"We came out of a timeout and Starkville lined up defensively the way we wanted them to," Smith said. "So we called timeout again. When you are at home, you play for the tie. We put a play together and the kids executed it to perfection." 

 

Scott threw ball inbounds. The next pass went underneath to Davis, who had grabbed some separation in the lane. After taking a couple of steps towards the basket, Davis hit the layup shot attempt to tie the game at 58. 

 

"We knew they would double Duke (Berry)," Scott said. "So the play was to kick the ball to an outside shooter and we thought if they did double Duke, it would leave Jason open in the lane. It worked just like we had planned." 

 

Jason Davis has been a late addition to the Falcons' lineup. 

 

"He has always been with the program but he hasn't been dressing out," Smith said. "He had some issues to get resolved and some things to take care of. We have been slowly getting him into basketball shape. We really wanted to throw him out there tonight to get him some good minutes. We saw enough that tells you we can keep doing that." 

 

Davis has been thankful for his coach's support and teammate's encouragement. 

 

"It just felt really good to be out there contributing again," Davis said. "We just knew we had to execute our offense to come up with a win." 

 

Davis finished with 14 points. His ability to compliment Berry in the paint area could prove a big boon for the Falcons as the regular season begins to wind down. 

 

"(Davis) gives us one more option underneath and that is really big," Berry said. "It is all about teamwork and family. It doesn't matter who scores the points. In overtime, we had good offense and good defense. That comes from players knowing they have one another's backs." 

 

The well-played contest had many peaks and valleys for each team. 

 

Behind the strong 3-point shooting of Caleb Wilson, the Yellow Jackets (5-13) built an early lead.  

 

Wilson rammed home back-to-back 3-pointers for a 17-13 lead late in the first quarter. From that point, 

 

Starkville actually held some type of lead until the 4:45 mark of the fourth quarter. 

 

Starkville finished with a flurry on the defensive end and built a 33-27 lead at halftime. 

 

A 3-pointer by Zeb Rice allowed the guests to reclaim a six-point advantage at 46-40. Slowly, 

 

Columbus battled back and grabbed a 49-48 advantage on two free throws by Brandon Porter. 

 

A 3-pointer by Ravonte Gandy placed the Yellow Jackets on top 53-52. The lead changed hands a remarkable nine times over the final 4:45 with the only tie being when Davis' shot hit home with two seconds left. 

 

"The kids played hard, disciplined and we made a bunch of free throws," Smith said. "Really, that had not been happening for us." 

 

Back-to-back baskets by Porter and Berry gave the Falcons a 64-60 lead in the overtime period. 

 

The Yellow Jackets then saw Wilson foul out and the contest was essentially over. 

 

Wilson finished with 15 points for Starkville. Avonte Amos added 14 points and Gandy 13 points for the Yellow Jackets. 

 

Berry paced the Falcons with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Porter added 15 points, while D.D. Walker added 12 points on four 3-point baskets. 

 

"We are getting five or six guys into the scoring column now on a consistent basis," Smith said. "That is just a matter of kids buying into the program and understanding what we are doing." 

 

For Columbus, the victory snapped a losing streak in the series but more importantly, snapped a two-game losing streak for this season. After winning 9 of 11, the Falcons lost to Tupelo and South Panola last week. 

 

"No one was down," Berry said. "It was not the end of the world for this team. We always knew that we still had our future in front of us." 

 

n Columbus girls 90, Starkville 65: In the opener, the Columbus girls scored 51 second-half points to avenge an early-season 79-65 defeat to Starkville. 

 

"I didn't like some of the things we were doing on defense in the first half," Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston said. "We came in at halftime and made some adjustments. In the second half, we really made a bunch of shots." 

 

Mississippi State University coach Vic Schaefer watched as two of his future pupils really went after it. Signee Kiki Patterson had 38 points for Columbus, while Starkville's Blair Schaefer - Vic's daughter and an MSU commitment - paced the Lady Jackets with 33 points. 

 

Perhaps the biggest offensive lift of the night for Columbus came from Kadaryal Ledbetter. 

 

With Patterson being the focus of a constant double-team, the Lady Falcons (11-6) moved the ball inside to Ledbetter, who took the ball to the goal with authority. Of her 25 points, 23 came in the second half, including a perfect 10-for-10 run at the foul line in the third quarter. 

 

"Kadaryal was really incredible there," Hairston said. "She had quite a stretch there. Kiki Patterson played great. Porchia Brooks was dominant on defense. It was a total team effort all the way around. This was the type of contest where we showed what we are capable of when we play to our potential." 

 

Starkville (9-7) actually held a 20-17 lead after one quarter. A 9-2 run to end the half brought the Lady Jackets with 39-36 at halftime. Columbus bolted out of the gates with a 10-2 run to start the third quarter and put the contest away with 28 points in that frame alone. 

 

Daisha Williams was the third Lady Falcon in double figures with 12 points. Columbus finished the contest 22-of-26 at the free throw line. 

 

Imane Montgomery added 15 points for Starkville.

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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