Editor’s Note: The Dispatch continues its five-part series looking back at the 2016 sports year with today’s look at the top sporting events played in the area this year. The series continues through Friday.
As Ben Howland has slowly built the Mississippi State men’s basketball program, it has become apparent that Quinndary Weatherspoon will be a key building block.
Only a freshman, Weatherspoon was the team’s brightest star during a 14-17 campaign last season.
The former Velma Jackson standout etched his place in history with a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired in a 75-74 win over Vanderbilt at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs erased a 17-point deficit over the final 14 minutes, 12 seconds of play.
Weatherspoon finished with a then-career high 24 points.
While the Bulldogs only managed seven conference wins, this was the squad’s most significant, as Vanderbilt would later make the NCAA tournament.
Vanderbilt built an early 21-7 lead. The Commodores parlayed the fast start into a 41-32 lead at halftime.
Vanderbilt would later build a 17-point lead at 59-42 with 14:12 left in the contest.
From there, the Bulldogs fought back but never took the lead until the final horn.
Down 71-62, the Bulldogs reeled off eight straight points, including a three-pointer by Weatherspoon, steal and layup by I.J. Ready and 3-pointer by Ready. MSU had a chance to grab a lead but missed the front end of a one-plus-one.
The comeback was complete when Ready fed Weatherspoon in the corner who let the ball go with a second left.
“The shot felt good when it left my hand,” Weatherspoon said after the game. “My mind is still buzzing. It was good that we came through as a team and got this win. We have been close so many times that it feels really good that we got it done. That shot ranks as No. 1 because I had not hit a game-winning shot before.”
Starkville native Gavin Ware had a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the win.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
TOP 10 ATHLETIC EVENTS FOR 2016
1. Mississippi State 75, Vanderbilt 74 (Men’s Basketball, February 17): Quinndary Weatherspoon hit a 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Bulldogs to victory at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU erased a 17-point deficit over the final 14:12 of play. Weatherspoon finished with a then-career high 24 points.
2. Mississippi State 9, Arkansas 4 (Baseball, May 21): The Bulldogs won at Dudy Noble Field to clinch the school’s first regular-season Southeastern Conference baseball championship since 1989. The victory capped a wild day, as Ole Miss won 3-2 at Texas A&M earlier in the day to open the door for the Bulldogs. One of the hottest teams in the nation to end the regular season, the Bulldogs won their final 10 conference games.
3. Noxubee County 24, Columbus 23 (Football, August 26): How good was the Noxubee County defense in its regular-season win at Columbus? The Tigers recorded a pair of safeties and also had two goal-line stands in the victory. Noxubee County also held Columbus star running back Kylin Hill under 100 yards, while erasing an eight-point second-half deficit.
4. Columbus 37, Starkville 33 (Boys’ basketball, March 12): While it was not an offensive masterpiece, there is little doubt that this was the most meaningful basketball game ever played between the two longtime rivals. It took place in Jackson and decided the MHSAA Class 6A state champion. The Falcons erased an eight-point third-quarter deficit with a 10-0 run. Robert Woodard II earned game most valuable player honors as Columbus won its first state championship in boys’ basketball.
5. Mississippi State 74, Michigan State 72 (Women’s basketball, March 20): The Bulldogs earned their second-ever trip to the Sweet 16 with a dramatic victory in the Humphrey Coliseum. Mississippi State let a 13-point lead slip away when the Spartans reeled off a 20-0 run. Thanks in large to part to a boisterous crowd of 7,094, the Bulldogs erased the seven-point deficit and took the lead for good on a Breanna Richardson 3-point basket with 34 seconds left.
6. Columbus 68, New Hope 67 (Boys’ basketball, January 2): Behind a 21-point performance from Woodard II, the Falcons held off a late rally by the Trojans to win at the New Hope New Year Classic. Columbus scored five points in the fourth quarter and committed nine turnovers but held for another dramatic victory in the always well-contested rivalry between Lowndes County schools.
7. New Hope 1, Lewisburg 0 (Baseball, April 30): By the time this MHSAA Class 5A second-round playoff series, the Lewisburg offense had had enough. New Hope swept the three-game series with identical 1-0 wins, including this victory at Trojan Field. Peyton Buckner threw 6.2 innings of six-hit baseball to garner the win, while the lone run in the contest scored on an RBI-single from Alex Adair in the second inning.
8. West Point 17, Columbus 13 (Football, September 9): The eventual MHSAA Class 5A state champions did not do a lot on offense but they did enough to escape Falcon Field with a dramatic victory. Columbus outgained West Point 401-225 but could not punch the ball in on numerous red zone opportunities. Clayton Knight hit Demarrio Edwards for a game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.
9. South Carolina 57, Mississippi State 51 (Women’s Basketball, January 24): Even though the home team did not win, the Humphrey Coliseum was electric when No. 10 Mississippi State and No. 2 South Carolina met for a late Sunday afternoon nationally-televised Southeastern Conference game. A school-record crowd of 10,626 watched as the eventual SEC champion Gamecocks broke a 35-35 tie with seven straight points early in the fourth quarter. Victoria Vivians had 19 points for the Bulldogs.
10. EMCC 27, Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. 24 (Football, November 5): EMCC’s quest for a fifth MACJC state championship began with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over rival Gulf Cost in the opening round of the playoffs. After beating Gulf Coast 45-7 in the regular season, the rematch proved a much better ballgame. EMCC won the contest on a 7-yard touchdown run by Vijay Miller with 9:02 remaining. The Lions then made three critical stops on defense to preserve the victory.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.