November 7, 2012 2:07:51 AM
By TANNER McGraw
Special to The Dispatch
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School boys basketball coach Greg Carter knew his young basketball team would have to learn on the fly this season.
The lessons came fast and furious as the Yellow Jackets dropped a 60-37 decision to Meridian in the regular season opener for each team at the Bee Hive Tuesday night.
Meridian actually won both contests, with the Lady Wildcats taking a 72-52 victory.
In the boys contest, the Wildcats won the opening tip and went on the offensive attack immediately, scoring the game's first five points.
Dontavious Self scored the first bucket of the season for the Yellow Jackets, as the hosts slowly battled back.
Jontavious Baker and Self scored two quick baskets and Avonte Amos joined from 3-point range as the hosts only trailed 15-13 after one quarter.
Meridian then exerted its will in the second quarter.
"They were bigger, stronger, more physical, and their pressure hurt us," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "Their size with their pressure hurt us. We did handle it a lot, we got it out of the traps and made the next pass, but we just couldn't finish."
The Wildcats started the second quarter on a 12-0 run and actually held the Yellow Jackets without another point until 50 seconds remained in the opening half.
"We went through a spell in the second quarter where it was a two to four point game, and we went about three minutes without scoring," Carter said. "We took a lot of good shots."
Meridian's stifling press defense helped create the 28-18 halftime advantage.
Starkville offensive woes continued in the third period, once again only able to score five points. Meridian would eventually piece together a 30-10 run, taking away the spirit of the Yellow Jackets in their home opener.
"We got to play harder," said Baker. "We got to come back tomorrow and try to get better to improve on how we did today.
"This was a big game for us and we tried to do our best, but we just didn't pull it off."
Starkville did get a spark in the fourth quarter, as the Yellow Jackets opened the period on a 9-2 run. However, the big lead was simply too much to overcome.
"In the third quarter we took a lot of good shots, but just couldn't make them. We just couldn't buy a basket," Carter said. "Our guys kept playing. Like I told them in the locker room, every game is a new experience and you've got to learn from it and move on."
Zeb Rice led Starkville High with 10 points.
"They outplayed us," Carter said. "The thing I was proud of the most is that we didn't turn the ball over. We made and got it to the next pass, but just couldn't make the shot."
In the opener, Meridian broke open a tight contest with an 18-8 run to end the third quarter, as the Lady Jackets fell to 0-2.
Starkville actually led 37-34 midway through the third quarter before the Lady Wildcats took over.
"If you look at our schedule, we have a very tough schedule and it's for a reason," said Starkville coach Kristie Williams. "We wanted a battle with Meridian and Columbus is coming up next.
"We know that if we can take these bumps right now and still battle with these tough teams, we will progress through our season."
Blair Schaefer led Starkville High with 22 points.
"You look at all the negatives," Williams said. "We missed some key shots and missed free throws, but I look at some of the positives. We have players that are still finding their own. Once we can get the balance of everybody, we are going to be okay.
"It's just another tough loss but its early on and we just keep pressing forward. Now our preparation is looking forward to the Falcons."
Starkville hosts Columbus Tuesday night.