WEST POINT — Something needed to give during the second half of Friday’s boys basketball game between West Point and Columbus.
With the score tied at 44-44 about midway through the third quarter, it was truly a deadlock between two local and district rivals.
The Green Wave and Falcons were trading baskets and playing a physical and chippy game. It really would come down to who can make a run late.
Luckily for West Point, senior forward MJ Smith helped spark just the run the Green Wave needed, punctuated by a putback poster dunk over Columbus’s Jayden Tatum.
The ridiculous dunk got West Point fans out of their seats and sent the gym into an absolute frenzy. West Point built off that energy, going on a 10-0 run to end the quarter as the Green Wave prevailed late, 70-63.
“I saw him trying to go for the layup, and he put it too far,” Smith said. “It was coming off the front of the rim, and it was my time to get back and get going, so I did.”
The poster was one of a few dunks Smith was able to throw down for West Point (14-4) in the win as his post presence proved to be crucial, especially in the second half.
He scored a game-high 20 points, leading the Green Wave in a game that was gridlocked up until that all-important third quarter run.
Smith came out of the gates slow and so did West Point, but while defense kept the Green Wave in the game in the first half, offense prevailed in a big way come the second half.
“We were struggling offensively tonight,” West Point head coach Marquis Burnett said. “Our defense kept us in there. I knew us being at home, the energy from the crowd, we were able to get those two big runs to take the lead and hold it.”
While West Point started to dominate the flow of the game from the middle of the third quarter on, Columbus (9-9, 0-3 in district) ran into foul trouble down the stretch, especially in the frontcourt.
The Falcons resorted to playing a younger lineup to combat the foul issues, but the Green Wave, in turn, exposed them badly.
“It got to the point where we really couldn’t run anything, couldn’t run any sets, make them move, make them work,” Columbus head coach Phillip Morris said. “They play a pretty tough defense, and we just couldn’t get any fluidity going with our offense.”
Columbus is now riding a four-game losing streak and an 0-3 start to district play, but the Falcons were nowhere near out of Friday’s game, even when it looked like West Point was going to pull away.
In the fourth, Columbus cut the deficit to under five points, doing what it could to mount a comeback.
However, the last-ditch effort was too little, too late as West Point capped off an evening of basketball at home with a doubleheader sweep.
West Point travels to play New Hope on Tuesday, while Columbus travels to play Louisville on Thursday.
West Point girls 44, Columbus 40
West Point’s girls team got things started on the night in a game that, like the nightcap with the boys, was a seesaw affair between the Green Wave and Falcons.
It didn’t start out like that as the two teams were tied at 9-9 headed into the second quarter.
However, in that second quarter, West Point jumped out to an eight-point lead at the half and kept the momentum going from there.
The Green Wave had to fend off a tremendous third-quarter run from Columbus, which cut the deficit to just one point with the fourth quarter approaching, but down the stretch, it was West Point making clutch shots to pull away with a 44-40 win.
“We knew that they would make a run, so we just had to weather that storm and they did,” West Point head coach Tez Calvert said. “I was extremely proud of them. They didn’t get rattled.”
Two Green Wave players, Terica Smith and Dukiaha Jones, led the team in scoring in the win with 12 points, but Jones’ fourth-quarter performance stood out.
With West Point scoring just one point in the third, Jones came out with intensity and grit, scoring seven of the Green Wave’s 17 points in the quarter, helping to fuel a big district victory.
“I’m here to bring energy,” Jones said. “When I’m on the court, my energy tends to rub off on other people … We just push each other. We push each other to do better every day and keep our head up. We don’t ever let it get behind us.”
For Columbus, it was an unwanted collapse, especially from the foul line, where the Falcons shot 3 of 10 in the fourth quarter.
A game decided by just a few points came down to key plays and knocking down shots.
Not only were the Falcons unable to make plays, turning the ball over several times, but they missed foul shots that proved to be crucial.
“We lost,” Columbus head coach Yvonne Hairston said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do to win the ball game. We just lost.”
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