Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Jeff Norwood shook up his Tupelo Golden Wave starting lineup Monday with underclassmen.
The result was a solid, grind-it-out win for the Wave, edging Antioch (Tenn.) 61-59.
“We showed a little sticktoitiveness, and played better together,” Norwood said. “There’s not any way we can accomplish what we want if we don’t do it together.”
Tupelo (6-5) needed togetherness in a tight 32 minutes of basketball, with neither team leading by more than five points.
The Wave entered the fourth quarter with a 44-40 lead, but Antioch forged ahead 56-52 with just over three minutes to play on baskets by Rashad Gordon and Damion Baugus.
The Tupelo defense held firm over the final three minutes and a 9-0 run with baskets by Easton Upchurch, Tristan Upchurch, and Malik Douglas pushed the Wave into the lead at 61-56.
Freshman Easton Upchurch led the Tupelo offense with 16 points, while Ikenna Anayae had the hot hand for Antioch with 16.
Tupelo led 14-12 after the first quarter and 29-27 at the half.
“We made our free throws down the stretch, and we talked about being sharp in the final minutes,” said Norwood when Tupelo was trailing 56-52. “Finishing the game was key, and allowing only one shot and getting the rebound was important.
“That’s been missing.”
Wave at Christmas
The Golden Wave concludes its pre-Christmas schedule at 6-5, with three games scheduled later this week during the Holiday Classic in Gulfport.
“Are we working harder, are we getting better together, that is how I’m looking at our progress this season,” Norwood said.
Tupelo plays Pascagoula at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the tournament, which includes Weston, Harrison Central, and Madison Central.
“There is going to be some talent down there,” Norwood said. “We’re going down there to play our best basketball, and spend some time bonding.
“We’re definitely working for the future of the program, and the big picture. It’s tough being patient, but even this season, we have the opportunity to be a tough team.”
The Wave have games at New Hope Jan. 4, and against DeSoto Central Jan. 7 before opening Division 2-6A play Jan. 10 hosting Hernando.