STEENS — RJ Deloach doesn’t consider himself a true scorer.
That doesn’t mean Deloach can’t morph into one when the opportunity presents itself.
“Defense is my strong suit,” Deloach said. “When I get the ball, I’m pass first, but if I see a lane, I’m going to attack it.”
Deloach did plenty of attacking from the start Thursday night, scoring 14 points in the first quarter in the Columbus Christian Academy boys basketball team’s 64-19 rout of Winona Christian Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA, District 2 tournament.
CCA led 30-0 after one quarter thanks to Deloach’s surge.
“He picks us up to a different level,” CCA coach Greg Watkins said. “He creates stuff for himself and his teammates.”
The victory helped CCA (19-8), the reigning Class AA State champion, advance to the tournament title game against Oak Hill Academy at 5:45 p.m. Saturday. Carroll Academy and Winona Christian Academy will meet in the consolation game at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.
CCA’s unanswered points streak reached 36 before Winona Christian’s first field goal in the second quarter. CCA held Winona Christian to four points in the first half and 10 in the first three quarters.
“We’ve got guys that can score, but we preach defense,” Watkins said. “We really challenged our guys. We beat these guys easily the last couple of times, and we didn’t want them to lapse in their focus.”
Deloach played a big role in that defense, too, leading the Rams with two first-quarter steals. With the starters on the bench, Andrew Sparks scored eight points in the second quarter to bury Winona Christian.
n In the other boys game, John Bauer spent a few weeks worrying about his sharpshooter, Reiley Tate. After Thursday, he doesn’t have to worry anymore.
Tate scored 27 of his 29 points off 3-pointers in Oak Hill Academy’s 68-40 victory against Carroll Academy. Tate made all four 3-pointers he took in the first quarter.
“He’s been struggling the last several games,” said Bauer, Oak Hill Academy’s coach. “That’s been something I was concerned about going into district play and the playoffs. Hopefully this was a good sign.”
At the very least it was a good sign for Buddy Dill, Oak Hill Academy’s usual No. 1 option. Dill scored 10 points while Tate took center stage, giving future playoff opponents another threat to take into account.
“Everybody keys on Buddy. It was good for Reiley to be able to do this,” Bauer said.
n In girls action, second-seeded Oak Hill Academy trailed by four points with less than four minutes to go, so Bauer knew the Lady Raiders had to respond with defense. All it took was a timeout and a speech by Bauer to affect a change.
“I told them three-and-a-half minutes was plenty of time to score five points,” Bauer said. “We just had to step up the defensive intensity, and I thought they did that.”
In the final 93 seconds, CCA scored six points and held third-seeded Winona Christian scoreless to pull out a 38-35 win.
Oak Hill Academy will take on Carroll Academy at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the tournament’s title game.
Tanner Grubbs (team-high 18 points) made two free throws to bring Oak Hill Academy within a point. Maggie Gwathney’s free throw 20 seconds later tied the game. Julia Bristow’s layup gave Oak Hill Academy the lead. Another Gwathney free throw extended the lead to three.
The revival in the fourth quarter was a sharp contrast from the first quarter, in which Winona Christian Academy’s full-court press forced turnovers that contributed to Oak Hill Academy’s deficit.
“Once we finally understood how to get the ball down the court, we got our offense going,” Bauer said. “We got them in foul trouble, which was big for us. We’re a good free-throw shooting team.”
n In the other girls game, top-seeded Carroll Academy defeated fourth-seeded CCA 62-44. Kylie Emerson led the Lady Rams with 22 points. Celia Peal had 10.
The Lady Rams rallied in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points led by three 3-pointers by Emerson.
CCA will take on Winona Christian at 2 p.m. in the tournament’s consolation game.
The top three teams advance to the Class AA Regional tournament next week at Delta Academy.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson