The Starkville Lady Yellowjackets had one of the top Class 6A girls high school basketball teams in the state on the ropes in the Beehive Tuesday night, but just couldn't put it away.
Starkville led the Meridian Lady Wildcats 12-7 after the first quarter and was on top 37-34 with 5:49 left in the third quarter after a 3-point field goal by Blair Schaefer.
However, the visitors were not going to be denied and secured a 55-45 advantage after the third quarter. The Lady Wildcats pulled away in the fourth quarter and went on to defeat the Lady Jackets 72-53.
Even though SHS had the early lead in the game, several missed shots from in close kept it from getting a nice cushion early.
"There were some key baskets around the rim and free throws (that were missed)," Lady Jacket coach Kristie Williams said. "If you go back and add those points back in, we are in the game, but once again, we're pushed to the limit in these first three games because they are really tough.
"Meridian is one of the top 6A schools. To battle with them as long as we did, I thought we did a good job. If we can continue to battle and get through these bumps, we're going to get better and better throughout the season."
Starkville jumped out to a 6-0 advantage with two baskets by Imane Montgomery and a jumper by Schaefer. Meridian's Dandy Dozen player Kayla Gordon kept her team in the game with six points in the first quarter.
The scoring picked up for both teams in the second quarter, but the Lady Wildcats got the better of it by out-scoring their hosts 23-14 and taking a 30-26 lead at halftime.
The Lady Jackets came out firing from 3-point range early in the second half with two from Schaefer and one from Kasey Jett to go on top 37-34.
A 3-point play by Gordon tied the game and she scored again to give Meridian a 39-37 lead. The Lady Wildcats did not trail again.
Meridian turned up the defensive pressure that seemed to frustrate SHS.
"We've got to recognize with Blair being our best ball-handler, a great (opposing) coach will force somebody else to handle the ball," Williams said. "When we build up the confidence of our other guards, there will be a big difference and we'll be able to break the press a lot easier."
Schaefer led the Lady Jackets in the scoring column with 22 points. The Lady Wildcats were led by Gordon's 23 points and Miracle DuBose's 20 points.
Williams believes Schaefer will be the type of player that will make everyone else better and more intense.
"The whole team is motivated to go harder now," Williams said. "We could have very easily laid down, but we battled through. We got in foul trouble again and we've got to minimize the ticky fouls. If we can do that, we'll be in more games and these tough games than what we showed (Tuesday) night."
Starkville will be off until a meeting with Columbus at home next Tuesday.
"There's a lot to look at both positive and negative," Williams said. "We'll gain from those positive ones and minimize the negatives as we prepare for Columbus next week."