January 9, 2013 12:11:04 AM
By TYSON RODGERS
Special to The Dispatch
STARKVILLE --In a high-pressured game that came down to the wire, Aberdeen High showed just how important seniors are to a team searching for a win on the road.
The Bulldogs were looking for a third straight win and achieved it with a fourth-quarter rally to defeat Starkville 54-51 in a boys basketball game Tuesday night.
"The tradition here at Starkville is so great that you can't just come in and show up," Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. "You have to out play them. Starkville is not going to beat themselves. They hustle and never quit."
After watching the first two quarters, it would seem the Bulldogs were not ready for the traditional power, as Starkville jumped out to an early 9-4 lead. But Aberdeen seniors Rico Haughton and Kendrick McCoy countered the Yellow Jacket's opening surge to combine for eight points in the first eight minutes. Starkville and Aberdeen drew even at 14 to end the first quarter.
"That's what we look for from our seniors," Hazzle said. "They are on their last ride. Seniors are supposed to have that leadership about them. They are supposed to dig deep and make the younger guys better. We are very fortunate to have a senior team and hopefully down the road when playoff time comes, it will pay off."
The youngest player on Aberdeen, Marcus Carouthers, clearly benefited from having those seniors make him better as he led all scorers with 17 points in the contest.
"Coach Hazzle told me to come out here and play hard," Carouthers said. " Get to the line, knock down my free throws and play hard defense. All that was going through my mind was to just knock down my free throws and get back on defense."
The sophomore only chipped in two points for the first 16 minutes, but came up strong late for 15 in the second half.
"He comes with a positive attitude and his emotions sometime take over him," senior guard Kendrick McCoy said about his young teammate. "But we gave him a little pep talk at half and I think he came back from it. He knows what to do and what he has to do to get the job done."
The third quarter saw momentum swings from both sides, Aberdeen's seniors drove the lanes and Starkville's guards hit timely three point baskets. Greg Carter's SHS squad took the lead four times in the second half and battled to the end, having an opportunity late to tie the game late on a three pointer from junior Zeb Rice.
"That's the way a champion plays, when they get knocked down they get back up," Hazzle said. "They may be a little down this year, but they still have that champion's pride about them. We knew coming in that it wasn't going to be a easy game. Coach Carter always has his guys ready to play. We had to tell our guys that we had to be ready for any and everything."
Aberdeen's McCoy knew this game would be grinded out with defense, as the Bulldogs fell below their scoring average on the year after only scoring 54 points. But its something McCoy is willing to take.
"We knew coming to Starkville would be tough to win, but we have good team chemistry and a great defense," McCoy said. "We work on our defense everyday at every practice every minute. It gives us a second wind in games like this. We knew it would be hard to score, but we had to rely on our defense."
Defense is what saved the Bulldogs during the final stretch of the game as the Yellow Jackets made a final charge. The Bulldogs' lead dwindled to only two with under thirty seconds to play when senior Jakeese Walker hit two free throws after being intentionally fouled. Starkville then miss fired on two three point attempts to close out the game.
In the girls' game, Starkville rolled to a 66-29 victory. Blair Schaefer led the Lady Jackets with 11 points, two assists and two steals in only a quarter and a half of play.