Starkville Christian boys basketball coach Mark Horstmeyer knew he had a reason to be proud of Thursday's night game against Winston Academy.
After seeing the statistics, he could see why his Cougars were so successful in beating the visiting Patriots 62-35 at the Cougar Cave.
Starkville Christian only had 13 turnovers, its lowest total of the season, made a season-best 10-of-12 free throws and five Cougars had at least six rebounds.
Horstmeyer likes the way SCS is coming together as a team.
"They feel good about (winning) and they should," Horstmeyer said. "Part of the goal is to understand that it's having success as a team.
"The last couple of games they are blending together and finding what it is to be a team. They are being unselfish, are sharing the ball and everybody is executing."
Winston Academy got off to a 7-0 lead, but the Cougars chipped their way back.
With the score 12-4 in favor of the Patriots, Starkville Christian scored the final six points of the quarter to close the gap to 12-10.
"They had poise, stayed within themselves and grew through that," Horstmeyer said of the slow start by the Cougars.
Winston Academy hit a 3-point shot to open the second quarter to take a 15-10 lead, then Starkville Christian went on a 16-0 run to secure a 26-15 advantage.
The Patriots hit a pair of free throws to close the half, but the Cougars held a 26-17 lead at the break.
Starkville Christian continued to expand the margin throughout the second half, leading 46-31 at the end of the third quarter. The Cougars out-scored Winston 16-4 in the fourth quarter.
Paul Michael Calhoun led SCS with 22 points, while Caleb Jordan also scored in double figures with 18 points.
Horstmeyer understands that the Cougars are going to be over-matched by some opponents down the stretch of the season, but he wants them to be smart.
"When you miss shots, it's part of the game, but when you are missing position on the floor and have the mental mistakes, that's what you have to focus on them and help them work through," Horstmeyer said.
The Patriots won the junior varsity game 43-27. Jesse Little had 12 points to lead Starkville Christian.
Winston Academy 53,
Starkville Christian 38
The Lady Cougars may not have beaten the Lady Patriots, but gained the respect of Winston Academy coach Jessica Dickens.
Dickens, a former assistant at Starkville Academy under Glenn Schmidt, thought Starkville Christian was a much better team than the one it beat in Louisville earlier this season and credits Mary Kathryn Whittle for the job she's done.
"She has done an incredible job with them," Dickens said. "We played them early in the year and they are a completely different basketball team. Being able to play them in junior high and high school has helped.
By the time they get up there, they are going to be very competitive. They are aggressive, have gotten smarter and better all around."
Whittle believes the Lady Cougars are getting better every game, but still sees some areas where they can still improve.
In losing to the Patriots, Whittle said the lack of rebounding hurt more than anything.
"(Thursday night) it pretty much came down to blocking out and the lack thereof," Whittle said. "Probably 75 percent of their shots were second chance layups and free throws off fouls on second shots."
Winston Academy held a 13-11 lead after the first quarter and took control of the second quarter to increase the margin to 34-23 at the half.
It was the Lady Patriots' first visit to the Cougar Cave and Dickens said they had to get used to the surroundings.
"It was a different atmosphere and different environment," Dickens said. "We had a hard time getting used to it at first, but we did a good job of playing hard, especially in the second half."
Winston Academy went on to a 43-26 lead after the first quarter in improving its record to 7-9.
For Starkville Christian, Jazlyn Douglas scored 12 points, while Hannah Buckner was next in the scoring column with nine points.
Douglas, Buckner and Charity Morris had seven points each as the Lady Cougars won the junior varsity game 25-24.
"They have pretty much played two seasons in one," Whittle said of the players who play varsity and junior varsity. "They are getting plenty of playing time and experience together. I told them if they stick together, they are going to be a tough team.
"They've just got to buy into everything. It starts with confidence with them and the sky is the limit."