By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo Golden Wave coach Grant Pate likes the unity of this year’s edition of his team, especially his seniors.
So in fourth-quarter crunch time of the Wave’s first-round matchup in the Class 6A North Mississippi Tournament, Pate left the fate of the contest in the hands of his seniors.
They did not disappoint.
Led by a 26-point effort by Rashon Coleman, the Wave advanced to the semifinal round of the North bracket Tuesday with a 76-66 victory over the Madison Central Jaguars.
The win sends Tupelo to DeSoto Central on Friday, where they will face Clinton in a 7:30 p.m. contest.
“We’ve emphasized team with this group of guys, especially the seniors,” Pate said. “We decided in the fourth quarter to leave it up to them.”
Tupelo (23-8) entered the fourth quarter with a 43-38 lead. And every time Madison Central (16-14) appeared ready to make a dent in that margin, a Wave senior stepped up with a key field goal.
A three-point play by Josh Hamilton to open the quarter. A 3-pointer by Dajon Reno with 5 minutes, 22 seconds to play.
The Wave always seemed to have an answer, including seven free throws by Coleman in the closing two minutes.
“I was getting kind of nervous toward the end,” Coleman said. “As a senior, I didn’t want to go home, so I was helping to make sure we didn’t.
“Madison Central was real physical, and their full-court press gave us trouble.”
The contest began with Tupelo controlling the pace, eventually leading to a 9-0 run from the end of the first quarter into the second period. Jordan Sadler had a trio of baskets in the spurt, capping the run with a layup that gave Tupelo an 18-8 lead.
Central found its legs later in the period, slapping a press on Tupelo that gave the home team trouble. The Jaguars closed the half on an 11-0 run, capped by a Keon Spencer tip in with 10 seconds left that closed the Tupelo lead to 28-27.
“I knew Coleman was pretty good, and knew they had some athletic guys,” Central coach Rahim Lockhart said. “I think Tupelo made some good adjustments.”
Coleman answered with a 10-point third quarter as Tupelo led by as many as nine points.