‘Too big of a hole too early’: Comeback comes up just short for Brookhaven Girls during the MHSAA 5A semifinals

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

With six minutes remaining in the MHSAA 5A semifinals Tuesday, you could be excused for penciling in Columbus High (23-4) to the championship game on Friday.

The Falcons had led from the opening tip and were up 15-7 after the first quarter and 23-9 at halftime over Brookhaven High (24-6).

Junior guard Angel “Cookie” Wilkinson made sure Brookhaven High didn’t go out without a fight though. Wilkinson scored 19 of her 29 points in the fourth quarter as Brookhaven tied the game at 39-39 on her layup with just over one-minute remaining

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Columbus responded though on the next trip with a runner by Makayla Rieves that ended up being the go-ahead basket in a 43-40 win.

The largest lead of the night for Columbus was a 19-point advantage with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

A personal foul, then a technical foul and then another personal foul on Columbus early in the fourth quarter allowed Wilkinson to make six straight free throws which helped spark the BHS comeback as the deficit was trimmed to 37-27.

From that point on, the Ole Brook defense was doing what coach Preston Wilson wants the most from his team — creating chaos. The Panthers pressed and ran and trapped and made the game tight and miserable for the Columbus ball handlers.

Columbus committed 21 turnovers in the game.

It’s the second straight year for BHS to have its season ended in the 5A semifinals as the Panthers made the state championship in 2020, a game they lost 55-51 to Columbus in Oxford.

The girth and collective height of Columbus made scoring at the rim made drives and put back attempts difficult for BHS in the early going of the game.

The Falcons ate up the court in their man-to-man defense as Rieves, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, and 6-foot senior center Charity Yeates are both Itawamba CC basketball signees.

“We just put ourselves in too big of a hole early,” said Wilson. “We had a deer in the headlight look about us and weren’t there mentally. Proud of the fight we showed though, defense is the name of the game for us and we turned it up in the second half.”

Rieves scored 13 for Columbus — her game winner was her only basket after halftime — and Shania Givens added 12 points.

BHS finished 13-of-23 from the free throw line but made 4-of-8 3-pointers after halftime.

Senior guard Alexis Kelly added nine points for BHS and forward Aliyah Watkins rounded out the BHS scoring with two points.

“We were slow getting started and couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said Wilson. “To come back from being down 19 and have a shot to tie it at the end — we gave ourselves a chance and that’s a credit to the girls.”​