STARKVILLE — After two weeks without a game, the Columbus High School girls basketball team expected some rust.
Against rival Starkville High in the opening game of the Class 6A, Division 2, District 4 tournament, they expected a fight.
Never mind the fact Columbus swept the season series with Starkville, or the fact the Lady Yellow Jackets entered Tuesday”s game with five wins.
So when Maggie Proffitt was saddled with foul trouble in the first quarter, the Lady Falcons were prepared for the extra adversity.
Luckily for Columbus High coach Yvonne Hairston, she has two standouts capable of carrying the team if either is struggling.
Sophomore KeKe Patterson filled in superbly for her fellow sophomore, scoring 30 points to lead the Lady Falcons to a 59-56 win.
Patterson was one of just four Lady Falcons to score, and her team needed every bit of her production with Proffitt on the bench.
“I knew that if I got us a lead, when Maggie came back in she would be able to help extend the lead,” Patterson said. “We hadn”t played in two weeks, so I knew we was gonna come out sluggish. But coach told us to play through it. We wasn”t really blocking out like we was supposed to, but we got the win so that”s all that matters.”
The Lady Falcons (13-5) will face Tupelo for the district championship at 5 p.m. Friday.
Proffitt picked up two fouls in the first quarter and sat the third quarter, per Hairston”s decision.
“We went in at halftime and decided that was what we were gonna do as long as we kept the lead,” she said. “If we felt like we were going to get behind, we would put her back in. It just happened to work out that way.”
Both teams endured sluggish starts, combining to miss 20 shots in the first quarter. Starkville (5-18) led 8-5 at the end of the first and trailed 21-20 at halftime.
The Lady Yellow Jackets suffered foul trouble of their own. Courtney Moore picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter and fouled out with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Moore, a 5-foot-9 forward, was held to seven points as Starkville struggled to get the ball inside while running its half-court offense.
The result was more mid-range and long-distance jump shots than coach Kristie Williams would have liked given their size advantage up front.
“We wanted to work the inside game, but our guards, for some reason, we couldn”t get the right pass,” Williams said, “or, we”d make the wrong pass with the right intentions in mind. We ended up having to settle for that mid-range because of that.”
Brittany Brown scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half for Starkville, while Jonissa Buchanan added nine.
Columbus extended its halftime lead to eight following a layup from Patterson and a 3-pointer from Darisha Williams with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter. Starkville responded with a pair of free throws from Jacqueline Fair and Brown to cut Columbus” lead to 34-30, but Toni Petty sank three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Petty, Columbus” lone senior, had nine points.
Starkville twice cut Columbus” lead to one point in the fourth quarter but saw Patterson and Proffitt answer with jump shots.
The Lady Falcons made 8 of 10 free throws in the final two minutes to answer 3-pointers from Buchanan and Rebecca Myles.
Beating Starkville for a third time this season proved difficult, and though it wasn”t a thorough performance, the Lady Falcons are happy to move on, Patterson said.
“It was extremely tough because they knew everything we was running,” Patterson said. “It was hard to play against a team that knew everything we was doing, but we had to find a way to put the ball in the hole.”
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