TUPELO HANGS ON TO BEAT FALCONS
By D.E. Wheeler
The Tupelo Golden Wave’s 1995-96 book on how to blow a second half lead got still thicker Tuesday against the Columbus Falcons in the Division 2-5A Tournament.
This will be an easy chapter for Tupelo coach Lee Stratton to refer to later, a chapter he plans to dog ear for future reading the rest of the season. The Golden Wave race to a 20 point first half lead, then survived the Falcons fourth quarter comeback attempt to earn a 66-54 victory.
The win propels the Wave into the finals of the tournament Friday, where they will face the Starkville Yellowjackets. The top seeded Yellowjackets earned their trip to the finals with a 74-56 win over the Grenada Chargers.
The Lady Chargers were a bit luckier, as the state’s No. 6 team survived a second straight upset attempt by the Lady Wave for a 56-44 win. The other girls saw a last second shot propel the Lady Yellowjackets to a 49-47 win.
“We just wanted to play with enthusiasm, just keep working the whole game because it’s the playoffs,” Stratton said. “It was up to our players to meet the challenge of the comeback.”
Tupelo (15-14) led at the half 46-26, and maintained that margin through the third quarter at 54-34. Then the Falcons (17-12) went on a 10-0 run to open the fourth period.
Two straight baskets in the lane by David Verdell cut the Wave margin to 54-44 with 5:15 to play. But John Bradley scored eight straight points for Tupelo, including a dunk off a Willie Poster steal that stopped the Columbus run.
“That was a big dunk for us, and the two points were important too,” Stratton said. “Some don’t understand that you can do more than score to help the team, and Willie’s steal is an example.”
Donell Watson scored 22 points for Tupelo, including 14 in the first half, and Bradley added 12 for the game. Verdell led Columbus with 14.
(G) Grenada 56, Tupelo 44: Two weeks ago the Lady Wave (8-17) tested the Lady Chargers (24-4) until the final minute of the game before allowing Grenada to slip off the hook. This time Grenada wriggled out of the upset in the third quarter.
The Lady Chargers used a 20-1 run to take a 39-24 lead after the third quarter, and during nine minutes of the second half, the Lady Wave were held without a field goal.
LaSonya Pulliam led the Lady Wave in scoring with 18 and Ashley Fields added 11. LaTonya Cooper paced the Lady Chargers with 14. Tupelo led 19-17 at the half.
(B) Starkville 74, Grenada 56: The Yellowjackets (19-9) were led in scoring by Maudeo Duck and Demetrice Dotson with 14 each while Shon McCaskill hit 21 for the Chargers (14-11).
(G) Starkville 49, Columbus 47: Kenya Bibbs’ basket with 6.8 seconds decided the matter in favor of the Lady Yellowjackets (18-5). Ryakko Macon led Starkville with 15 as Shamekka Taylor led the Lady Falcons (23-9) with 17.
Columbus led after the third quarter 38-35.