By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Chaz Jones paid tribute to Tupelo’s bench, and he spoke with authority.
He spent about three minutes there in the second quarter, wondering briefly if his day at the Big House was done.
Jones, though, recovered from a hard spill and re-entered the game late in the second quarter. He and teammate Jordan Sadler – two of the Wave’s six seniors – were a big factor when Tupelo blew past Biloxi with a 30-16 fourth quarter en route to a 72-56 win in the Class 6A State Tournament semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum Wednesday afternoon.
Guard Dajon Reno led five Tupelo players in double figures with 16 points.
Jones added 15 and Sadler 14, and they were a combined 13-for-18 from the floor, most of the looks in the paint.
Tupelo had struggled with Biloxi’s length and athleticism in the frontcourt in the first half.
The Wave (26-8) won its seventh straight and advances to the championship game for the first time since 1990.
Tupelo coach Grant Pate said an adjustment in his press defense worked as planned, making it harder for Biloxi (22-6) in the middle of the floor.
“They got some offensive put-backs in the first half, but we really rebounded hard in that (fourth-quarter) stretch. We got some key rebounds then,” Pate said.
The Indians missed eight of their first nine shots in the fourth quarter, and the Golden Wave, clinging to a 42-40 lead after three quarters, wasted no time in taking advantage.
Reno knocked down a 3-pointer to open the quarter, and after a Biloxi bucket, made it a 45-42 game, Sadler and Jones both converted 3-point plays while the defense got stops on the other end.
Suddenly, the Wave led by nine and wasn’t finished.
The lead reached 14 when Josh Hamilton dunked with a lob pass from Jones with 3:38 left, and celebrations began.
The lead peaked at 18 points.
The Wave’s work inside helped Tupelo end the game with a 29-28 edge on the glass.
“When it was 42-40, we had 18 turnovers, and I was trying to figure out how we were still in the game,” Biloxi coach Seber Windham said. “Their point guard controlled the whole game for them, and that was the difference.”
Rashon Coleman struggled with the Indians’ press at times, but finished with 10 points and four assists.
The lead changed hands six times in the first half with Tupelo going ahead for good after a transition basket and free throw from Reno with 4:22 left in the second quarter.
While the Wave had the lead, but it was less than commanding. Tupelo had a 30-25 edge at the half and was outscored 15-12 in the third quarter.
Then Coleman, Jones and Sadler stepped on the gas.
“We were going back and forth through the first three quarters. We kept telling our guys to keep working, keep pressing, keep fighting,” Pate said. “We were able to hold onto the ball against their pressure, and our guys did a good job of moving the ball to the open man and passing through the press.”