By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
Is it deja vu all over again for the Tupelo Golden Wave basketball team?
One year ago, Tupelo was in the Class 6A North Mississippi Tournament semifinal game. One year ago, Tupelo lost to Vicksburg in Vicksburg in overtime.
“Naturally, we haven’t forgotten that game, but we’ve moved forward,” said Tupelo coach Grant Pate. “The guys have worked extremely hard to get back to this point, and our goal is to compete for 32 minutes.”
Tupelo will get its chance to compete today in a 7:30 matchup against Clinton at DeSoto Central. That means qualifying for the 6A State Tournament in Jackson is just a win away, but first things first for the Wave.
“Clinton is a really physical team with really good guard play,” Pate said. “Physically, they compete at a high level.
“We’ll have to play our best defense against them. This time of year, teams that win play their best defense, along with timely offense.”
Tupelo (23-8) has been playing some of its best ball of the season of late. Last week, the Wave won a pair of games to claim the Division 2-6A title, then defeated Madison Central 76-66 Tuesday to get to this point in the North bracket. Clinton (24-5) is coming off a 67-53 win over Olive Branch.
“We want to take the extra step,” said Tupelo senior Dajon Reno, one of the few Wave returning from last year’s team. “I think a key will be our defense, and I know I’m not ready to go home yet.”
Reno is currently second on the Wave in scoring at 12.6 points per game, with senior Rashon Coleman pacing the squad at 15.4 ppg.
“Our main guys down the stretch have been our seniors,” Pate said. “They have all made big baskets at big times, and that’s been a key.”
The other semifinal game in 6A has host DeSoto Central (29-1) against Jim Hill (21-9) at 6 p.m.
The winner of these two contests plays at 7 p.m. at DeSoto Central Saturday.
Class 6A schools are not the only teams getting back into tournament action.
In 5A, the Starkville boys are in action at Forest Hills. Starkville (25-3) plays Provine at 7:30 p.m. today. The other side of the bracket has Calloway (20-6) against Canton (9-18).
Then in 5A girls, the Oxford Lady Chargers are hosting their section of the North, which features two undefeated teams. Oxford (29-0) matches up against Canton (20-9) at 7:30, while the 6 p.m. game has Lanier (27-0) pitted against Center Hill (25-5).