Second-half surge takes Wave to 6A finals

By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal

Coach of the Year:
Grant Pate, Tupelo
A loss is not always a loss.
For Grant Pate as the Tupelo head coach in the 2011-12 season, the Golden Wave’s 15th game was a loss to Kirby High School from Memphis in a tournament in Missouri.
“We have talked about that 15th game as a turning point in the season,” Pate said. “We lost the game, but we saw a competitive spirit.
“And our leadership grew from it. After that game, the guys called a team meeting. From then on, it was one team, one goal.”
That basic goal was almost reached as Tupelo powered through the second half of its schedule to reach the Class 6A championship game before losing in overtime to Jim Hill.
That impressive second half and post-season run helped Pate earn Daily Journal Boys Coach of the Year honors.
“I feel like it was a spirit-led, faith-driven season,” said Pate, who left after the season to become men’s coach at Itawamba Community College. “And I always remembered that you’re only as good as the guys around you.
“We had an outstanding senior group, who were really good listeners and tremendous competitors. And we had tremendous support from the student body, parents, and administration.”
‘four-year-process’
Certainly the core of Tupelo’s success this past season was its seniors – Rashon Coleman, Dajon Reno, Josh Hamilton, Chaz Jones, Jordan Sadler, and Devonta Fields.
“It’s been a four-year process,” said Pate, who directed THS to its first state tournament trip since 1999. “The experience of the three previous years, having won some big games, losing to Vicksburg last season, gave us a little more motivation.”
Pate also used a late-season loss to Shannon to jump start Tupelo’s postseason run, which did carry the Wave to the 6A state title game.
“I remember us being down 19 points in the third quarter,” Pate said. “We credit our guys for the comeback, and having enough heart to have a chance to win that game.
“This shows how much a team can accomplish when you put aside individual goals.”