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By JOEL COLEMAN
The Starkville Yellowjackets proved Saturday night that one man can't win a basketball game all by himself.
Despite allowing a game-high 29 points to Gentry point guard Jaleen Dawson, Starkville defeated the Rams 76-61 at the Beehive.
Jacolby Mobley scored 23 points and Gavin Ware added 22 to help the Jackets overcome Dawson's big night.
"(Dawson) got to the basket, it seemed like whenever he wanted to," said Starkville head coach Greg Carter. "We just couldn't contain his penetration."
Dawson hung 16 on the board in the first half alone, keeping the Rams alive in a contest that saw the Jackets lead 39-28 at the intermission.
With Gentry (4-1) essentially hanging around solely on the play of its point guard, Ware and his teammates knew they had to make an adjustment.
"In the locker room at halftime, we were asking each other 'which way is he going?'" said Ware. "We figured out he was going left and then when he finished he was going right, so we just tried to keep somebody on him. We tried to run a 2-3 zone so if he tried to go (left), we'd have him, and if he tried to go (right), we'd have him."
The change worked. Dawson was limited to just 13 points in the second half, including just four in the fourth quarter, as Starkville (3-1) pulled away after a late Gentry surge.
"The majority of his points in the second half came off transition," said Carter. "Once we went zone, he didn't get that penetration anymore."
While Dawson enjoyed a fine night in defeat, Starkville's point guard did pretty good for himself as well.
Mobley ripped off 11 first quarter points before falling victim to foul trouble, then came back with 12 more in the second half.
Carter says that Mobley's play was indicative of how good he can be as he matures.
"He's still making strides," said Carter. "But he's real aggressive with that ball in his hands. He can make a lot of things happen, not just for himself, but for others. He can do some things with the ball in his hands that is just amazing."
Ware, too, helped the Jackets absorb Dawson's performance.
Carter said his senior center could have had an even bigger night if he just had gotten the opportunity.
"(Ware) probably would have put up 50 points if we could have got it to him a little more," said Carter. "He was open a lot and we either didn't look or just didn't get it to him. He's probably a little bit to blame there too because there are times where he didn't run and post deep. But then again, there were times he was open and we could have got it to him a little more."
Behind Mobley and Ware, Starkville overcame an early Gentry scoring run to capture the lead for good in the opening moments of the first quarter.
While the Rams never were able to recapture an advantage, they actually pulled to within three at 59-56 early in the fourth quarter.
"I think part of it was we never could get into a rhythm offensively," said Carter. "Whether it was their zone, us taking quick shots, or whatever the reason was, we couldn't find that rhythm. When you play a game that's choppy like that, you go through periods where you don't score and if the other team is scoring, you're in trouble."
Carter attributed his team's inconsistencies to the foul trouble that kept Mobley on the bench for much of the second and third quarters.
"The game slowed down," said Carter. "When he got back in, we sped things back up. We score better when we're playing fast. That's a known fact."
With Mobley on the floor, the Jackets ended the game on a 17-5 run, capping their second straight victory.
With a 10-point effort, Chris Harris was the only other Jacket to join Mobley and Ware in double-figures.
Starkville will try to extend its winning streak this week on the road at Louisville Tuesday and at home Friday against Columbus.
Carter is anxious to see if this year's team can take a similar path as last year's Class 6A and Grand Slam champion Jackets and get stronger as the season wears on.
"We still have a long way to go, but that's not all bad," said Carter. "Last year, I was stressing and pulling my hair out and not knowing if we'd win the next one, but we just kept getting better and better and better. By Christmas, we were pretty good. Hopefully this team will take on that same type of progression."