By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – This time last year, Tupelo was left wondering what went wrong when the Golden Wave boys were eliminated in the region playoffs. But on Friday night, Tupelo was only left wondering who they will host next Tuesday night.
Behind a balanced scoring attack, the Golden Wave (27-3) knocked off host Starkville 67-64 to claim the Division 2-6A championship. It was the Golden Wave’s third win over the reigning Class 6A champs this season and now advance to Tuesday’s opening round of the North tournament.
“It felt real good and I’ve never had this feeling before,” said Tupelo senior Deontaye Ewing, who had a team-high 14 points. “This is the first time we’ve experienced this feeling since I’ve been here.
“And we did it again with our defending and rebounding. When we do that, we can do a lot of things.”
Chris Brooks, Shane Butler and Daion Reno each added 10 points for Tupelo while Josh Hamilton added nine points.
Tupelo will now play host to either Southaven or Desoto Central on Tuesday night.
“I just can’t say enough about our guys,” said Tupelo head coach Grant Pate. “They’ve really matured throughout the year. We’ve had some great senior leadership down the stretch and we got it again tonight.
“And we’ve had different guys step up on different nights. We’re just thankful for this and want to give all the glory to God.”
Tupelo took an early 6-0 lead and led 29-26 at the break.
Starkville did make a run in the third quarter thanks to eight straight points by sophomore Stanley Childs, and took a 42-41 lead late in the third quarter. But Tupelo responded with a 7-1 run to take the lead for good.
In the closing moments, Butler was 5 of 6 at the free throw line to help ice the victory.
“That was huge,” said Pate. “Our three seniors (Ewing, Butler and Brooks) were out there down the stretch and it made a big difference for us.”
Mike Brand led Starkville (17-7) with 16 points while Steven Brand and Childs finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Starkville played without a pair of starters – juniors Gavin Ware and Jacoby Mobley – due to injuries. But Starkville head coach Greg Carter was still pleased with his team’s effort.
– (G) Columbus 60, Tupelo 44: For the second straight game, Columbus’ Kiandria Patterson exploded on the offensive end and ended Tupelo’s quest for another region title. After scoring 30 points on Tuesday, Patterson had a game-high 29 against the Lady Wave in the region title game.
Chy Cunningham had 13 points to lead Tupelo (18-12), who will now travel on Monday night to either Horn lake or Southaven in the opening round of the 6A playoffs.