Jackets belt Blue Devils at Mid-Mississippi Challenge

Most Valuable Player Zeke Cook and his Yellow Jacket teammates celebrate Saturday's 87-25 victory over the Booneville Blue Devils.

Staff Writer

There were a few minutes of time where Starkville and Booneville were deadlocked in a battle and that lasted 8 minutes.  

The Blue Devils played the Yellow Jackets neck and neck in the first quarter and trailed just 12-10 after the first stanza concluded, but SHS quickly took hold of the game. As it wore on, the size, speed and overall talent of one of the state’s top teams showed and the Jackets rolled to a monstrous 87-25 final over Booneville, giving up just 13 points in the final three quarters.  

The 87 number was obviously impressive for SHS offensively, but the defense is to be credited the most. That’s where assistant coach Qu’Varius Howard said the team had to stabilize before it could roll on the other end of the floor.  

“We just tried to get a lot of rhythm on defense. We know that when we’re playing defense and keeping the other team from scoring, we’ll eventually get out and run, make shots and get fast-break baskets. We just like to focus on our defense.”  

Of course, it was hard not to be impressed by the efficiency in which the Jacket offense was running. The team shot a sparkling 34-for-66 (52 percent) for the game and hit 10-of- 25 (40 percent) from 3-point range.  
The speed of SHS was impressive for most of the game as was the depth of the bench that took its toll, but the size issue came into play early in the second quarter.  

That’s when coach Greg Carter inserted Atavius “Tank” Jones to go opposite Zeke Cook in the post and the two went to work. Jones scored eight points and pulled down four rebounds in the quarter and Cook helped with a few scores as well to take a 12-10 lead and start a 20-0 run that led to a 41-15 at halftime advantage.  

Jones finished the night with 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench, but Cook was chosen the Player of the Game despite only playing two quarters of real action. He had 16 points and seven rebounds of his own as he continued his strong junior season. 

“We all rebounded, shot well and played great one-on-one defense," Cook said. "We all played just like we did in practice. I think we’re playing pretty well right now. From sophomores, juniors and seniors, we’re playing pretty good.”  

In the second half, things escalated to another level. The Jackets played the bench for most of the half and showed just how deep this team really is as SHS outscored the Blue Devils 22-6 in the third and 24-2 in the fourth for the blowout victory.  

The win was the ninth-straight for the Jackets (18-1,) who haven’t lost a game in a month. It’s also the second win in as many days as they defeated Class 6A, Region 3 rival Madison Central on the road on Friday night.  

SHS is playing a string of four games in five days with two more to go in the brutal stretch. The Jackets continue it on Monday as they travel to Jackson to play Forest Hill in the Rumble in the South, which is a Martin Luther King Day staple, held at St. Andrews High School. Starkville will play West Point at home on Tuesday in the first home game since January 4.  

“We’re trying to tell the guys to get their rest and not stay out late because four games in five days is challenging," Howard said. "The main thing is we want them to get that rest and have the energy to play the next five days. (Saturday) starters got rest and the big thing was the younger guys were able to get in and get some experience.”