February 14, 2020 11:15:54 PM
STEENS -- Jonathan Peal had an open lane to the basket. Will Teague had an even clearer one.
Peal, a junior at Columbus Christian Academy, eschewed looking for his own shot early in the second quarter of Friday's MAIS Class 2A north state semifinal against Tunica Academy. Instead, he trusted the senior teammate he'd been playing with since seventh grade.
"Me and Will, we've got chemistry," Peal said. "I'm always looking for Will out of the corner of my eye. I know where he is at all times."
Streaking toward the hoop, Peal delivered a no-look dish to Teague as the senior cut toward the rim. Teague laid the ball in easily, extending Columbus Christian's lead to 23-10.
"He'll see you when you're open," Teague said of Peal. "It just flows out there. It's just natural since we've been playing so long together. It just happens, and we don't really even think anything about it."
The smooth play just another example of the duo in action Friday as Columbus Christian beat Tunica Academy 59-49 in its own home gym. Teague and fellow senior Lawson Studdard scored 17 points, and Peal added 12 as Columbus Christian opened up a big lead early on and never gave it back.
"It felt good, because then we had a little bit of cushion, so we didn't have to worry about it too much," Teague said.
The Blue Devils made a game of it in the fourth quarter, cutting the Rams' lead to as little as nine points with a few minutes to go. But Columbus Christian still refused to worry, sinking a pair of foul shots to push their lead back into double digits.
"They came back a little bit, and then we just stepped it up again," Teague said. "We have a mindset that we're not gonna lose: We just have to win."
The Rams had already clinched a spot in the state tournament by reaching the north state semifinal round, but with a win over Rossville Christian on Saturday, they can capture the north state title and the No. 1 seed.
"We're a really good team," coach Jason Williams said. "I'm proud of them."
Williams pointed out the Rams' strong zone defense -- his team gave its best performance on that side of the ball this season, in his opinion. Tunica Academy scored just seven points in the first quarter and 18 in the first half as Columbus Christian held a 37-18 halftime lead.
"They played with a lot of defensive intensity," Williams said.
He also credited the work of assistant coach KC Cunningham, who Williams said has been an integral part of the Rams' success.
"He's been with us every step of the way," Williams said.
On Saturday, Columbus Christian will try to go one step further as it faces Rossville Christian for the north state title at 5:15 p.m.
"Tomorrow night's gonna be one of those games where you do everything you can to try to win the basketball game," Williams said.
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.