By DANNY P. SMITH
COLUMBUS – What a difference a day makes for the Starkville Lady Yellowjackets.
After missing all eight shots from the free-throw line in a 50-45 loss to Brandon Friday night, the Lady Jackets bounced back strong to hit 19 of 25 from the line and defeated Forest Hill 61-48 at the Joe Horne Christmas Invitational.
"They knew (missing free throws) was not something we needed to do," SHS girls coach Kristie Williams said. "To step up and make the free throws like that, it shows these girls have a lot of heart and they want to continue to fight no matter what our record says."
The Lady Jackets (4-7) hit all 10 of their free-throw attempts in the first half as they established a 37-21 lead and at the end of the third quarter were 13 of 14 from the stripe.
After seeing Forest Hill cut the margin down to 40-34 with 57.1 seconds left in the third quarter, Starkville ended the quarter on a 7-2 run to increase the margin to 47-36. A three-point field goal by Whitney Taylor got the Lady Jackets going.
Williams was happy to see her squad respond to the defensive pressure of Forrest Hill.
"That was our big problem early in the season and we have been focusing on that in practice," Williams said. "It's showing. Beyond (Jonissa Buchanan), my other guards are a little shaky in terms of their confidence, but we are slowly building that up. They are beginning to take that role and understanding that pressure is coming. They know to relax and do what they have to do."
In the fourth quarter when Forest Hill made another run at Starkville and cut the lead to 50-46 with 5:39 left in the game, Courtney Moore scored six of the final 11 points for the Lady Jackets as they finished strong.
Starkville continued to hit free throws as well with Rebecca Myles getting three, and Brittany Brown and Buchanan sinking one each.
With the loss, Forrest Hill's record falls to 9-3.
"After coming off a heart-breaking loss (Friday), the momentum did carry over for us to do well (Saturday)," Williams said. "I did think we played with a lot of intensity. We did have moments where we took a couple of possessions off and Forest Hill is the type of keep that will keep trying to make runs. We were able to withstand those runs and come out on top.
"That's what it's all about. We're turning the corner and hopefully great things will happen for our team."
Moore led three scorers in double digits for the Lady Jackets with 23 points, while Taylor added 11 points and Myles chipped in 10.
Starkville takes a few days off for Christmas before playing at the Hattiesburg Holiday Invitational on Dec. 27-28. The Lady Jackets play host Hattiesburg and get a rematch against Lake.
"We're anticipating ending the first chapter of our season on a high note," Williams said.