By MATTHEW STEVENS
COLUMBUS – Up until Thursday afternoon, Starkville thought they were going to face an undefeated Provine team that their very familiar with.
The Yellowjackets got to the gym in Columbus only to find out they were playing a squad from Holt, Ala., and their Joe Horne Christmas Classic rematch with Provine wouldn't happen due to the Rams program dropping out the day before the event.
"Obviously we didn't know anything about them and yesterday afternoon we got the call we'd be matched up with them," Carter said.
Holt head coach Torrance Beard had called Columbus High officials last week asking if their was a opening in the event and after Provine's coaches cancelled their invitation Thursday, they were happy to fill their spot.
Without a scouting report, Starkville suffered through a slow start but closed out Holt (Ala.) High 55-43.
Holt High managed to slow the tempo down and keep Carter's fast break offense from getting easy baskets which led to only a 17-16 lead for Starkville early in the second quarter.
From that moment on, Starkville ripped off 13 consecutive points to blow the game open thanks to the quality shooting of guard Steven Brand. Brand ended the game with 15 points and all but two coming in the first 16 minutes of play.
"We played better in those second and third quarters," Carter said. "For whatever reason, we tend to get off to slow starts."
Holt (4-5) was led in scoring by 10-point efforts of guards Gerald Harris and Rayanthony Sanders.
The Ironmen, which is a program near Tuscaloosa, managed to double-team Starkville junior center Gavin Ware throughout a first half that saw the four-star prospect struggle to only four first-half points.
"They had a bunch of kids inside and it was tough early to get him the ball with so many bodies down there," Carter said.
Ware, who has already drawn interest as a junior from Mississippi State, Georgetown, Alabama and Missouri, dominated in a second half that saw him score 13 of his game-high 17 points.
The Yellowjackets' 6-foot-8 inside threat will get a challenge tonight as he goes up against Brandon senior center Tyler Adams, who is nearly averaging a double-double (15 points and 9 rebounds) and has already signed to play for Georgetown next year, scheduled for a 8 p.m. tip
"No use complaining about having to play back-to-back nights because that's what it'll take to win a championship," Carter said.
COLUMBUS – Missed opportunities haunted Starkville Friday in a loss to Brandon at the Joe Horne Christmas Classic.
The Lady Jackets (3-7) were especially bitten by an 0-for-8 performance from the free-throw line.
"If not for that, we might could have had a better turnout," said SHS head coach Kristie Williams. "We battled really tough and hung in there against a good team, but free throws were our nemesis yet again."
Brittany Brown led Starkville with 16 points.
Whitney Taylor and Rebecca Myles also reached double-figures in scoring for the Lady Jackets, tallying 11 and 10 respectively.
Myles also hauled in nine rebounds for Starkville, one more than Chelsey Johnson-Weaver's eight.
Starkville continues play in the Christmas Classic today, facing Forest Hill at noon.
"It was tough to lose (Friday), but maybe the momentum we built with our play will carry over and we can play with that same grit and determination (today)," said Williams.