For the fourth year in a row, the McComb Tigers are headed back to Jackson to battle through the 4A tournament bracket and solidify their legacy as a basketball powerhouse.
The Tigers beat Columbia on the road 60-50 Saturday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
McComb faces Shannon at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Jackson State University.
Kendrell Martin led the Tigers with 23 points, while James Williams had 16 and Gary Butler had 11.
McComb head coach Leon Harris said Saturday’s game was no cakewalk against Columbia, which was the top seed in its district going into the second round of the playoffs.
“They were in a hostile environment. Columbia had a fan base that was off the chain. ... That was a battle in itself,” Harris said.
On the court, the Wildcats didn’t make things any easier.
“They were a real scrappy bunch. They played hard-nosed defense,” Harris said.
The Tigers spread the floor and used a full-court press before switching to a half-court press, an underused defensive scheme that threw Columbia off guard.
“They turned the ball over more in the half-court press than they did in the full-court,” Harris said.
Vencheza McCray blocked shots down the stretch and had an impressive fourth-quarter that put the game out of reach.
“It was a monster dunk,” Harris said. “We weren’t even expecting that, and I don’t think they were. ... That kind of took the wind out of their sails.”
Harris, in his first year as the Tigers’ head coach, noted that no one on this year’s roster is a holdover from the teams that dominated Mississippi 4A basketball in the past three years under former head coach Hilton Harrell, making their playoff bid this season even more special.
“I’m proud of the kids that we have here this year,” he said.