COLUMBUS – It was a steep mountain for the Starkville High School girls' basketball team to climb.
The Lady Yellowjackets comeback fell short, as the New Hope Lady Trojans beat SHS 67-47 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
"The sting of knowing that we had an opportunity to be right here in this game, maybe that will fuel them to understand that when you're in a game where you have to win to move on, that you can't have any should have, could have would ofs," SHS head coach Kristie Williams said. "You've got to lay it out on the line from the start until the finish."
The Lady Jackets trailed most of the game for double digits, but they cut the lead down to 12 in the fourth quarter after Imane Montgomery knocked down two free throws to make it 57-45.
The Lady Trojans went on to score the next seven points to put the game out of reach.
"One thing I told them 'we don't give up," Williams said. "(We wanted them to) stop watching the scoreboard. It's about playing with integrity and going out fighting on top. Even though the scoreboard will probably say differently, you have to keep fighting. You have to show heart and know that when the going gets tough, I will never give up."
The Lady Jackets took a 4-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Lady Trojans answered with seven-straight points to take the lead for good.
New Hope took a 16-10 lead into the second quarter. The Lady Trojans used the second quarter to put some distance between themselves and the Lady Jackets.
New Hope outscored Starkville 17-9 in the second period to take a 33-19 lead at the half.
"We started out with a lot of jitters as you could easily see in the first quarter," Williams said. "The emotions kept running high in the second quarter. Once New Hope was able to set the momentum in the first quarter, they were able to just ease into what they do well."
The Lady Jackets struggled offensively to start the second half. Blair Schaefer's layup with less than 5 minutes left in the third quarter, were the first points for SHS.
New Hope was led by 32 points from DJ Sanders.
"DJ is a solid athlete," Williams said. "I've seen her play on several occasions. As they've gone this far, she was a big reason for them to be here. I knew she was going to probably have one of her better games. I thought that we could at least meet her challenge. She's such a gifted athlete."
Montgomery and Schaefer each had 18 points for Starkville. The Lady Yellowjackets finished the season 15-9.