By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
COLUMBUS – This time of year. basketball teams all start over at 0-0 and face the “one-and-done” possibility. With that in mind Tuesday night, the Tupelo High School boys’ team came out with “focus” en route to a 65-39 victory over South Panola.
The victory for the Golden Wave (21-8) came in the opening round of the Division 2-6A tournament and helped them advance to Friday night’s title game against Columbus (11-10).
South Panola ended the season with a 7-11 mark.
“We’ve been setting goals all year and we didn’t want to overlook anybody,” said Tupelo head coach Grant Pate. “We are playing 6A competition and anybody can win on any given night. We wanted to make sure we were on top of our game and come out with a focus and a fire and playing together and a good rhythm.”
Leading that charge for the Golden Wave was senior Dajon Reno, who had 14 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. Behind Reno’s hot shooting, Tupelo jumped to a 16-7 advantage after one quarter and were comfortably ahead 29-13 at halftime.
“Coach told us to stay focused and told us it is hard to be somebody three times in one season,” said Reno. “So we had to come out quick. It was our transition and our defense that got us going and we kept up our defensive pressure the whole game.”
Reno was the lone Tupelo player in double digits but other veterans also contributed. Jordan Sadler and Josh Hamilton each had eight points while Devonta Fields finished with seven.
“We’ve been working hard and we’ve had good leadership the last few weeks,” said Pate. “Our seniors have really stepped up. That is what you want at the end of the year. You want your older guys to lead and carry that over to the games.”
South Panola was led in scoring by James Watson with 12 points.
(G) Tupelo 71, South Panola 59: The Lady Golden Wave put on an offensive clinic in the first quarter and never looked back.
Tupelo scored 27 points in the first quarter and led by double digits for much of the contest.
Tupelo’s Casey Marshall and Jaleigh Polk each had 10 points in the first half and finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Antoinette Riddle had 16 for Tupelo, as well, while Faith Cook collected 12 points.
Christa Brown led South Panola with 28 points.
On Friday, Tupelo faces Columbus (21-2), which beat Grenada 61-21.