Right or left?
Steve Brand didn”t have a lot of time to analyze which direction would work best, so he went with the flow.
Veering right, Brand rubbed a defender off a screen at the top of the 3-point arc with the game in his hand.
This time, there was no doubt in the result.
Brand”s 3-pointer with 13.2 seconds remaining forced overtime, and he added eight more points in the extra session to lift the Starkville High School boys basketball team to a 62-55 victory against Columbus.
KeKe Patterson had a game-high 21 points to lead four players in double figures in the Columbus girls” 68-59 victory against Starkville in the opener.
Brand”s effort dazzled a raucous crowd that included University of Alabama men”s basketball coach Anthony Grant and Alabama assistant coach John Brannen.
“I was just trying to be patient and wait on the screen,” Brand said. “I just came off it and let it ride.”
Brand (14 points) was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the four-minute OT. He also had a driving bucket with 1:40 to play in the game that pushed Starkville”s lead back to 56-52. He added four free throws in the final 1:13 to help seal the deal.
Starkville High coach Greg Carter said his team has played so many close games this season it is all about execution. He said Brand has faced similar situations with big shots that haven”t fallen.
This night, though, was different.
“He really, really played well down the stretch,” Carter said. “The (tying shot) was for him, and if he didn”t have it he would have options because they would have to help somewhere. When he came off the screen he was wide open and he knocked it down.”
The game had to be stopped with 0.8 seconds remaining after fans came onto the court following a foul call on a blocked shot. Starkville”s Stanley Childs was called for a foul on Sam Doughty as he attempted to convert an alley oop that could have provided the winning margin. Security personnel and police officers quieted the incident on the far side of the court before it continued to the near side.
Officials put 1.3 seconds back on the clock, which left plenty of time for Starkville to have a chance to answer Doughty”s free throws. But a response wasn”t needed because Doughty, who played a strong game in the post before fouling out in overtime, missed both free throws.
Columbus coach Sammy Smith said his team has made significant strides this season because it has invested in the program and has realized it needs to be the sum of its parts to have success.
“We are doing what we can do and playing to our strengths,” Smith said. “We have become more dependable and more responsible, which allowed us to practice every day with a full load. We have gotten a little better.”
Gavin Ware scored 15 points and had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots before fouling out with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter. Mike Brand added 10 points and Chris Harris added seven for the Yellow Jackets (Class 6A, Division 2, District 4), who got back on track in the district after losing Friday at the buzzer at Tupelo. A victory Saturday at home against Noxubee County helped erase the sting of that loss, but Carter said his team still has work to do if it wants to put itself in position to defend its Class 6A state and overall state titles.
Deontae Jones and Doughty paced Columbus (3-15, 1-5) with 13 points apiece. C.J. Scott and Brandon Porter each had seven points.
Maggie Proffitt (15 points), Toni Petty (11), and Kameron Corrothers (10) also scored in double figures for the Lady Falcons (11-5, 5-1 district). Corrothers” performance came on her 16th birthday.
Courtney Moore paced Starkville (5-15, 1-4) with 20 points, while Jacqueline Fair added 15.
Fair had to be taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Columbus after the game, according to Starkville High coach Kristie Williams. Fair came out of the game late in the fourth quarter and sat on the floor in front of the team bench. Teammates and fans tried to cool Fair off, but she appeared lethargic due to dehydration. Her condition delayed the start of the boys game for more than 10 minutes.
Williams, who went to the hospital with Fair, said the left-handed guard was being treated for dehydration.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.