The West Lowndes High School boys basketball team earned even more legitimacy — at least in Lowndes County — on Friday night.
Now the Panthers” challenge is to back up what they earned from a season sweep of Columbus in their district tournament later this week.
Demetrius Malone scored a game-high 25 points and Clemmie Hairston”s layup in overtime provided the go-ahead points that allowed West Lowndes to defeat Columbus 61-57.
“Going back as far as I can, I can”t remember the last time West Lowndes won at Columbus,” West Lowndes coach Herman Peters said. “They all are good friends, so it is kind of like a friendly rivalry between the teams.”
In the girls game, Maggie Proffitt had a game-high 25 points and Courtney Cunningham hit the go-ahead basket to help Columbus overcome foul problems and rally for a 53-51 victory.
In the boys game, Tyquan Lucious and Kris Humphries each added seven points to help West Lowndes (16-5) ruin the Senior Night of Columbus High”s Michael Hall, Bobby Wrench (10 points), Herman Roberts, Akeem Toppin, Quaylan Fulgham, Okoye Davis, and Josh Tate.
The victory completed a season sweep of the county rivalry for the Panthers, who earned a 58-51 win on their home court in November.
In that game, West Lowndes hit only two 3-pointers but used an 18-for-24 effort from the free-throw line to gain one half of bragging rights.
West Lowndes earned the other half Friday night thanks to hot early shooting, the Falcons” foul problems, Columbus losing Hall to an ankle injury late in the third quarter, and officiating that didn”t sit well with Columbus coach Sammy Smith.
Trailing 48-38 with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Malone poured in seven consecutive points, including a 3-pointer, to cut the deficit to 50-47 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.
Columbus pushed the lead back out to 56-49 on a dunk by Toppin (team-high 18 points), but West Lowndes used an offensive rebound putback by Hairston, a drive by Hairston, and a 3-pointer by Humphries with 44.5 seconds to tie the game at 56.
The Falcons called two timeouts in the final 26.5 seconds to set up a play, by Roberts (nine points) couldn”t connect on a drive and one of his teammates punched the ball over the backboard out of bounds.
Malone missed a jump shot with seconds left to force the four-minute extra session.
Smith didn”t want to use the officiating as an excuse after the game, but he felt it contributed to the result. He took exception to one call in particular with 2:39 left in the game. With Columbus leading 54-49, Malone missed a free throw. The only problem was Malone wasn”t the player who should have been shooting the two-shot foul. Smith told the officials a technical foul should have been issued against the Panthers. The three officials huddled and replaced Malone with Brandon Clark and allowed him to shoot two free throws.
Clark missed the free throws, but Smith said the correct call wasn”t made and it worked against his team.
“I have plenty of respect for those three guys, and I didn”t fuss at them and complain, but I begged to them please don”t mess this up,” Smith said. “You don”t human error on rules. The rules say if the wrong shooter is on the line, no matter how it goes, it is a technical foul. I don”t care if they missed both free throws, it was a big momentum swing from that standpoint.”
The National Federation of High School rule book says officials may correct a situation in which the wrong player attempts a free throw due to a “justifiable misunderstanding.” The rule book also states a technical foul should be assessed if a wrong player attempts a free throw and if the officials determine it is reasonable for that player to know he should not have been at the free-throw line.
The rule book states the correct player should be given an opportunity to shoot his free throws and the other team should be awarded two technical free throws. That team then would receive the ball out of bounds.
Smith also chastised himself for not checking that Hall (10 points) was wearing his brace on his right ankle. He said he typically checks with his senior leader to make sure he is wearing it.
Hall left the game with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter. He walked off the court and into the locker room area in obvious discomfort. He returned to the bench with 7:13 left in the fourth quarter and draped a towel over his head. He then got up and walked back underneath the stands and toward the locker room area before coming back to the court. He eventually placed his ankle in a bucket of ice and watched the end of regulation and overtime.
West Lowndes scored its first 15 points in the first quarter on 3-pointers. It added two more treys in the second quarter to take a 30-26 halftime lead, and didn”t hit another 3-pointer until Malone”s shot from beyond the arc with 4:18 to go that made it a three-point game.
Peters said his team relies on the 3-pointer because it lacks size, so he can”t fault his players for playing to their strength. But he said he would have liked the Panthers to take the ball to the basket more after their 3-pointers stopped falling in the second and third quarters.
West Lowndes will play an opponent to be determined at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in its first game of the district tournament at Bruce High School.
Columbus will play Tupelo at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in its first game in the district tournament at Tupelo High.
n Columbus 53, West Lowndes 51 (G): Columbus (10-11) rallied to celebrate the Senior Night of Cunningham, April Harris, and Jessica Richardson thanks to some late-game heroics.
A 3-pointer by Daysha Humphries gave West Lowndes a 51-50 lead with 2:30 remaining. Cunningham responded with a driving basket that gave Columbus the lead for good. The Falcons rebounded the Lady Panthers” next miss and worked almost all of the last two-plus minutes off the clock.
West Lowndes committed its sixth team foul with 2:03 to go and wasn”t whistled for its seventh, which put Columbus in the one-and-one bonus, until 9.5 seconds remained.
Proffitt, who sat out the last 3:04 of the third quarter and the first 1:41 of the fourth quarter with four fouls, hit 1 of 2 free throws. She then forced a tie-up that gave the held ball to the Falcons. Cunningham missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.1 seconds to go, and all West Lowndes could attempt was a desperation baseball throw that fell well short.
“They played well, and we just didn”t play well as a team,” Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston said. “Maggie played extremely well and did what she had to do. We”re playing really, really young right now, and they”re just making young mistakes down the stretch. We should have been setting the ball up and we were shooting shots we shouldn”t have been shooting.”
Columbus, which lost four games in a row last month, played without freshman point guard KiKi Patterson, who is recovering from torn ligaments in her right foot. Hairston hopes to have Patterson available Tuesday when Columbus takes on South Panola at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the district tournament at Tupelo High School.
Cunningham had 10 points and Toni Petty added eight for the Lady Falcons.
Corey Nevils paced West Lowndes with 19 points, while Marquita Gray had 13 and Humphries added 11.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.