Don”t underestimate the bounce.
After missing the first of two free throws with four seconds remaining, KeKe Patterson wasn”t about to buy into the hype.
Inexperienced, undersized, and overlooked — those are words people throughout the state have used this season to describe the Columbus High School girls basketball team.
But Columbus was right there Monday night, tied with Southaven with the game on the line and its best player at the free-throw line.
Cue the bounce.
Even non-shooters recognize the rhythm, so when Patterson bent her knees and bobbed to simulate her shooting form, you had to think something good was going happen.
Patterson”s free throw provided the final step in Columbus” 60-59 victory against Southaven in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A North State tournament at Columbus High.
“My legs were cramping up real bad, and I knew I had to push through it for my teammates,” Patterson said. “I knew if I got the second shot we would win the game hands down.”
With the victory, Columbus (15-5), which is coming off the first district title since the 2002-03 season, will play Northwest Rankin at 7:30 Friday night at Horn Lake.
The matchup isn”t one many believed Columbus could reach, and that”s something Columbus High coach Yvonne Hairston used as motivation.
An offensive rebound by Corrothers (10 points) off a missed jump shot by Patterson set up a wild ending. Corrothers missed two free throws with the game tied at 59 with 10 seconds left, rebounded her second miss, and then lost the ball out of bounds. The official on the baseline first signaled Columbus ball, reversed himself, and reversed himself again to give the ball back to the Lady Falcons with eight seconds to go.
Following a timeout, Patterson inbounded the ball from the left side of the basket to Maggie Proffitt on the 3-point arc. Hairston said the play was designed to get a shot for Proffitt or Patterson. Proffitt didn”t have a good look, so she passed it to Patterson in the corner. Patterson didn”t have a jump shot, so she tried to drive and was fouled with four seconds remaining.
“We were going to take a last-second shot,” Hairston said. “It just so happened they fouled her and put her on the free-throw line.”
Strategically, the move might have been a good one. Despite fine shooting form, Patterson was 5 of 11 from the line to that point. The first shot rimmed out. The final make allowed the Lady Falcons to overcome a 12-for-27 effort from the free-throw line.
“I knew we had one of the best free throw shooters on the line,” Hairston said. “If we were going to go to the free-throw line, I wanted KeKe Patterson or Maggie Proffitt at the free-throw line, and we got one there. She couldn”t miss two in a row. I just knew she wasn”t going to miss two in a row.”
The Lady Falcons needed all the help they could get Monday against a taller opponent. Led by 6-foot-1 sophomore center Jasmine Joyner, Southaven had four players 5-10 to 6-1 on its front line. Columbus countered with a lineup that featured undersized junior “forwards” Kierra Erby and Brelana Coleman and sophomore Kameron Corrothers. Guards Patterson, Proffitt, and Daisha Williams also were asked to rebound as much as they could to prevent Southaven (19-6) from controlling the backboards.
The strategy worked to solid positioning in the paint and solid efforts by Erby (14 rebounds), Patterson (12), and Corrothers (eight). Those numbers helped Columbus make up for the absence of Toni Petty, its only senior, who missed the game due a prior engagement.
“We just did not want to go home tonight, and they played like it,” Hairston said. “It is a big game because I think everybody underestimated us, everybody had Southaven coming in. They had two girls over 6 feet tall, and we”re probably averaging 5-8 or 5-9, at the most. I just told my guys we have to go out and play really good man-to-man defense, and that”s what we did.”
Columbus also capitalized on the fact it had Patterson and Proffitt.
The sophomore tandem did their damage at different times and in different ways. In the first half, Patterson, a smooth left-hander, darted through the defense to score nine points and help the Lady Falcons build a 25-22 halftime lead.
Proffitt picked up her second foul of the game with 32 seconds left in the first quarter. She sat and watched the rest of the second half before breaking out in the third quarter. Positioned in the middle of Columbus” press-breaker, the soft-shooting right-hander drove and distributed to a team-high 22-point evening. Williams and Proffitt hit 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes, 9 seconds of the third quarter to help the Lady Falcons forge a 44-all tie entering the fourth quarter.
Southaven coach David Baldwin said his team has relied on its three-quarter and full-court pressure defense all season. For some reason, though, he said his team”s attempt to dictate tempo never worked like it should have.
“We had some girls that got out of position,” Baldwin said. “When we substituted, sometimes we lost some things.”
From there, the game was tied six times until the teams went into hyper mode and tried to win it with one play. Southaven had the best shots to capitalize, as a backdoor layup by Brianna Williams (14 points) off a pass from A”Queen Hayes (11) tied the game for the final time at 59 with 38 seconds to play.
Southaven freshman Olivia Cunningham (team-high 22 points) missed the front end of a one-and-one with 47 seconds to go. Joyner then missed a jump shot in the lane following a Columbus turnover to set up a wild final 10 seconds.
Baldwin didn”t make excuses for how the final sequence played out, but he lamented the foul trouble that kept Joyner (eight blocked shots) and his other post players from being a bigger presence. Joyner sat out the final 3:06 of the second quarter with her third foul. She was whistled for her fourth foul at the 5:04 mark of the third quarter and didn”t return until 3:42 remained in the game.
Baldwin said foul trouble plagued his team in the past five games. Still, he praised Columbus for stepping up and making the shots, or shot, it had to when it needed.
“It seemed like at a critical time we left one of their shooters open,” Baldwin said. “When you play two freshmen, two sophomores, and one senior and you miss I don”t know how many layups we missed, but Columbus deserves to move on. They beat us, and the girl stepped up and hit a free throw.”
Patterson said it couldn”t have ended any other way.
“We played as a team,” Patterson said. “It wasn”t KeKe had this many points, or Maggie had this many points. It was an equal balance from players coming off the bench and me and Maggie. Everybody stepped up and played big.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.