By BEN WAIT
The Starkville High School basketball teams will travel to Columbus this weekend to play in the 15th Annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic.
Greg Carter’s boys team is one of the top-ranked teams in the state and have yet to lose this season. Being one of the best teams in the state has not been the main focus of the Yellowjackets.
“We really don’t talk about it,” Carter said. “We play one game at a time and keep our focus on our upcoming opponent. If we get ahead of ourselves that is when we could lose our focus. I really lose count with our record.”
They will play Jackson Provine Friday night and Ridgeway (Memphis, Tenn.) Saturday night. This tournament will be a challenge for the Jackets. Provine has historically been a good basketball school and will be looking to spoil the Jackets perfect season.
“I haven’t seen them play,” Carter said of Provine. “I expect them to be good. They are always a consistent team and have been really good in the past.”
This tournament will give Mississippi State commitment Gavin Ware good exposure. Ridgeway is ranked 21st by MaxPreps.com.
“I know he will be challenged this weekend,” Carter said. “He has played really well all season and I expect it to be no different in this tournament.”
Ware is not the only threat for the Jackets. Jacolby Mobley gives Starkville an outside threat. Teams have found it hard to stop just one of them, and stopping both can be a nightmare.
Mobley will be playing one of his past AAU teammates, Roger Woods, of Provine. Woods is a 6-5 forward and averaged 16 points and nine rebounds a year ago.
“Mobley is going to play with a lot of pride this weekend," said Carter. "Woods was
his teammate on an AAU team so they go way back. He is excited to get on the court.”
The girls team will square off against Lawrence County on Friday and New Albany on Saturday.
Lawrence County is the defending 4A defending state champions and enter with a 6-4 mark. Head coach Kristie Williams hopes the play of Lawrence County will help challenge her players.
“We are looking to minimize our mental errors this weekend,” Williams said. “I am hoping that us playing a worth opponent, as if we haven't already, will help us step up the challenge and play well.”
New Albany has a Dandy Dozen pick in Jazmine Spears and are coached by former Houston Rocket John Stroud.
“Jazmine is a great athlete who will provide a huge challenge for us,” Williams said. “I want my team to grow from this experience.”
The Lady Jackets are coming off a one-point loss to Canton. Practice has shown that the energy has not dropped off.
“That was a tough loss, but the energy hasn’t gone down in practice,” Williams said. “I am trying to build up the enthusiasm of my players and preaching that they need to give it their best.”