When Hardaway girls basketball coach Kendall Mills spoke with his team before its game against Columbus on Tuesday night, he kept it short and sweet. He normally has something more to say, something to get the juices flowing or a reminder for his players.
On Tuesday, there was none of that.
“I just told them, you know who Columbus is,” he said, referring to a talented team that has championship aspirations in Class 5A this season. “I just wanted them to give the fans something to cheer for. The fans have supported them all year long, so I asked them to be the loudest bench, to pick each other up, to play with passion.”
What followed was more than he could have expected.
Hardaway topped heavily favored Columbus 52-50 in what will surely go into the books as the biggest upset of the season. Entering the game, the Lady Hawks were just 3-19. Columbus was the exact opposite, 19-3.
Once the game started, though. Hardaway led by eight after the first quarter, trailed by one at the half but outscored the Lady Blue Devils by three over the course of the final two quarters.
The loose balls and deflections finally went their way, and they were able to capitalize on turnovers, shoot free throws and just do the little things well.
“It was just amazing,” Mills said. “They finally put it together. They put their egos aside. It was their last home game, and the seniors wanted to go out with a win.”
Mills said a win like this, while Hardaway may not make the playoffs, can certainly be an example for next season.
“It’s a clinic, a tool for the offseason,” he said. “We have to use this as a mental edge to overcome adversity.”
Hardaway was led by Tiffany Dixon’s 20 points and Yonna Johnson’s 15. Columbus got 18 from Ariyah Copeland and 17 from Tatyana Wyatt in the losing effort.
Hardaway will play David to another Goliath on Friday when it plays at Carver, which is currently undefeated in Region 1-5A play.
“We’re going to try to pull another one of these off,” Mills said.
Tuesday at Hardaway
Columbus 9 16 14 11—50
Hardaway 17 7 13 15—52
Ariyah Copeland 18, Tatyana Wyatt 17, Griffin 5, Vazquez 4, Scott 4, Williams 2.
Tiffany Dixon 20, Yonna Johnson 15, Cosby 5, Dent 5, McCrory 3, Cashe 2, Dunn 2.
Records: Columbus, 19-4, 9-3; Hardaway, 4-19, 2-9. Next: Columbus, Friday at Auburn (Ala.); Hardaway, Friday at Carver.