The same day CMSD officials announced budget cuts that resulted in teacher layoffs and reductions in salaries both the female and male high school basketball teams made it to the district championship game. Both teams beat Grenada by double digits Tuesday night and are scheduled to host Tupelo Friday night for the chance to win the district. If the Falcons win, they’ll be one step closer to the school’s first state championship.
The two teams are polar opposites. The girl’s team won the district last year and made it to the second round of the north half before losing to the eventual 6A state champion, Northwest Rankin. This year, they’ve only lost two games, and have been near the top of the rankings for 6A all year.
The team also has two big-time scorers. The point guard, Kiandria Patterson, is one of the most explosive players in the state. A left hander, Patterson is consistently able to beat opposing players off the dribble and pull up for jump shots and lay ups. When she gets going, Patterson is able to put up big numbers even against good opponents. Last year, she scored 37 points against Northwest Rankin.
In balancing Patterson, the shooting guard, Maggie Proffitt has stepped up significantly this year. Proffitt, a knock down shooter, was able to make open shots last year but struggled to shoot off the dribble or drive to the basket. Opponents, therefore, could face guard her and reduce her scoring. Over the summer, though, Proffitt clearly worked on her dribbling skills and is much more aggressive offensively. As a result, she’s able to get easy points in transition and from free throws and opponents are forced to guard her with the ball. This has lead to her getting easier looks at her shot and to high scoring games. In a game during the Christmas classic, she drained 8 three pointers and scored 30 points.
The boy’s team, on the other hand, doesn’t have a dominant scorer. Instead, like all Coach Smith lead teams, their hallmark is defense and toughness. Each player plays on the ball, in your shorts, defense. They don’t press. They don’t play zone. No tricks. They simply dare you to play harder than them, to want to win more than them. Rarely does a player score twenty points (I would be willing to bet it hasn’t happened all year) and almost never do two players score double digits.
Instead of big time scorers, the team has five to 10 players with mostly equal talent, who can step up in any given game. Most of this year’s players survived last year’s two-win season, one of the worst since Coach Smith’s arrival, and have come back more skilled and more poised and ready to redeem the Falcon legacy. All are athletic, but none have yet to develop tremendous basketball skills. This forces the team to play together and not expect to be saved by the performance of one or two players.
Over the next few days, there will be much discussion about the recent budget cuts. People will put fingers at the state legislature, the past superintendent, and even the new middle school. But, hopefully Friday night we can all come together and support our Falcons. Each team has earned our attention.
The girls, with their high scoring duo, can make a serious run at the state championship if they rebound well and get more points in the paint. The boys, certainly a long shot to win the state championship, can surprise a lot of teams if senior guard Deontae Jones, the team’s most explosive player, can get on a roll. Either way, at least for one night we can focus on supporting and appreciating what we’ve got.
Scott Colom is a local attorney.