Answering the bell: Lady Jackets start 6A, Region 3 play with impressive win

Starkville High School sophomore Amaya Ford

Sports Editor

It was a matter of answering the bell for the Starkville Lady Yellow Jackets on Friday night.

A school bell could be heard during the playing of the national anthem prior to the Class 6A, Region 3 opener for Starkville against Northwest Rankin.

Not long after that, the Lady Jackets jumped out to a big lead over the visiting Cougars and never looked back in taking a 56-29 victory.

"We knew coming in the second half of the season that you have to fine tune every detail," SHS girls coach Kristie Williams said. "We set the tone early in the game and did not relent. Our effort was there, rebounding was good and so was help side defense. Everything I've been preaching we are finally putting the pieces together."

The Lady Jackets improved their overall record to 10-3, but more importantly started the division schedule with a win.

"The season has started and we are 1-0," said sophomore guard Amaya Ford, who led SHS with 21 points.

Ford scored the first three points of the game with a free throw and basket to get the Lady Jackets off to a good start.

After Northwest Rankin hit a basket to close the gap to 3-2, Starkville got a 3-point field goal from Jalisa Outlaw and two points from Amaria Strong to get out to an 8-2 lead.

The Lady Cougars were able to cut the margin back to four points a couple of times in the first quarter, but that was as close as they would be the rest of the game.

The Lady Jackets held a 19-8 advantage after the first quarter and 33-16 at halftime as Ford almost outscored Northwest Rankin by herself with 16 points in the first half.

"That is huge for us to have her come in and not be fearful with the ball," Williams said of Ford's play. "She was attacking what they gave, taking it to the rim, wasn't afraid to get fouled, went to the free-throw line and made some good shots for us."

Even though the transition from being on the freshman team to her first year of varsity was rocky at the start, Ford said the support she has received has been key in her development.

"There were some tough times, but my teammates helped me," Ford said.

Along with Ford's scoring output, Outlaw contributed 13 points and Strong chipped in 12 points.

Williams was glad to see three players score in double digits and knows that kind of production will be beneficial moving forward.

"That balanced scoring with Jalisa, Amaya and Amaria is going to really help us out," Williams said. "I think that's going to be key for us as we move through the district play and the rest of the games in our season."

Starkville travels to Murrah for its next district game next Friday.