Special to the Journal
TUPELO – On a night when the Tupelo boys were making too many sophomore mistakes for the postseason, a sophomore saved them.
Sophomore post player Jett Johnson rebounded a Kylan Hamilton miss and converted a three-point play with 4.9 seconds to play Tuesday, helping the Golden Wave hold off Olive Branch 68-65 in first-round action of the Class 6A state tournament.
“I’m put in there to get rebounds, get big,” said the 6-foot-3 Johnson, who was the leading tackler on the football team at linebacker. “If Kylan didn’t make that shot, I wanted to get that rebound.
“This game was a confidence booster for us.”
The 25-5 Wave needed all the boosting it could scrape up, having led 55-44 early in the fourth quarter, only to have the scrappy Olive Branch squad tie the game at 65-65 after four straight free throws by Joseph Harmon, the last two with 1 minute, 43 seconds to play.
After trading possessions, Tupelo worked the ball around, with Hamilton stroking a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim, and Johnson’s wide shoulders making enough room to grab the rebound and muscle that ball into the basket.
“I started praying a little bit, found a little peace, and then I felt we were going to win,” Tupelo coach Jeff Norwood said. “Jett made a big shot on that free throw, and I felt a little better. I’m just happy for us to move on.”
Tupelo’s start to the contest was less than stellar, but the Wave bench picked up the slack, and the Wave never trailed again after a Johnson three-point play gave the home team a 16-14 lead in the second quarter. Tupelo led 32-22 at the half, and 48-41 entering the fourth quarter.
Senior Tre Jenkins had 13 points in the second half, and finished with 22. Johnson scored 16, with junior Hamilton scoring 8 in the fourth period, and 14 overall. Tray Boyd led Olive Branch (18-10) with 17.