The Mississippi High School Class 5A, Region 3, District 4 Championship goes to the Starkville Yellowjackets and it took a big fourth quarter run to gain control.
Starkville ran away from the Clinton Tigers, winning the contest by the final score of 62-30.
In a game that was closer than the final score indicated, the Yellowjackets trailed in the third quarter after the Tigers opened the second half with eight unanswered points to take a 24-22 lead. However, Starkville answered in a big way.
“We go into halftime 22-16 and they come out on an 8-0 run and go up 24-22,” said Starkville head coach Greg Carter. “After that, it seemed like we just played better. We were flat and then we played with a lot more energy after that. We attacked the basket.”
Starkville went on a 40-6 run over the final 12 minutes of the game, including a stretch of over 10 minutes where Canton didn’t score at all.
Tory Rice was the catalyst for the Jacket turnaround as he simply raised his intensity in the eyes of Carter.
“Tory Rice took over at one point in the third quarter, posting up, getting every rebound, getting to the free-throw line,” said Carter. “He really did everything for us for a stretch. He was a warrior in the paint.”
Rice finished with 13 points for the game while Gavin Ware paced Starkville with 16 points.
While the offense was clicking for SHS, the defense benefited from the spark as well.
“Our offense energized us and we played with a lot more energy on defense,” said Carter. “We were just flat. We missed open shots all night. They shot it pretty well. I thought when we went on that run that Steve Brand did a real good job guarding their best player (Rakeem) Esco.”
As the Tigers opened the second half on their run Carter made what may have been the game-changing call, or no-call as it turned out.
“I was on the verge of calling a timeout but I felt like we weren’t really rattled,” said Carter. “We took a couple of wide open jumpers that didn’t go in and they scored. I just didn’t think we were rattled so I didn’t think we needed to regain composure, that’s why I didn’t call it.”
Moments later, his team regained the lead and never looked back.
Starkville will now turn their attention to a Tuesday night affair in the Beehive where it will host Lake Cormorant, a 51-49 loser to Hernando on Friday night.
Carter has an idea of what he’ll see.
“Everybody is going to watch this tape and they’re going to be calling them to see what they did,” said Carter. “So I expect to see this same gameplan down the road.”
The Yellowjackets will take the court on Tuesday with a schedule tip for 7:30 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA – After stunning Neshoba Central on Thursday with a double overtime win, the Lady Jackets didn’t have the spark they needed to get past the Canton Lady Tigers.
“To play this game at this level this late in the season, you have to be able to play back-to-back period,” said SHS girls coach Kristie Williams. “You can’t change your intensity and desire to win in 24 hours.
“I thought our energy level was low and I didn’t think we played with the desire knowing we could come home with the division trophy.”
In the loss, the Lady Yellowjackets were led in scoring by Janay Townsel with nine points followed by Imane Montgomery with seven points.
Despite the loss, Starkville plays on Monday at either Center Hill or Hernando in the first round of the Mississippi High School Class 5A North State Tournament.