December 27, 2013 11:52:35 AM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School boys basketball team spent the first half losing the tempo battle in its opening-round game at the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at The Hump tournament.
The Yellow Jackets found clear sailing to victory after they resolved that problem.
A 12-2 run in the fourth quarter helped Starkville defeat Parkview (Arkansas) 63-52 in the final game of Thursday's three-game session at Humphrey Coliseum.
"Coach always tells us to go out and play hard and defend and we can win," Starkville senior Jontavius Baker said. "We lost track of some of that in the first half. We came out slow and we let beat them to some loose balls. In the second half, we didn't have those issues."
Baker had 13 of his game-high 17 points as Starkville (10-2) finally found a rhythm. In the opening quarter, Parkview (5-2) beat Starkville in transition and built a 15-8 lead.
Starkville finally pulled ahead for the first time, 19-18, on a 3-pointer by Josh Skinner. The lead was short-lived, as the Patriots used their speed and success with the full-court trap to continue to hold the upper hand.
Parkview scored the final six points of the opening half and led 28-24 at the intermission.
"We allowed one score in transition in the second half," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "The rebounding was so much better too, like night and day. Those two things are what allowed us to get separation. The thing about this team is they know what they are supposed to do, and eventually they will find a way to do it."
Still, the verdict was in doubt early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots pulled to 46-43 before being undone by the 12-2 run. Starkville forced eight turnovers in 10-possession stretch. A full-court trap that had worked with moderate success turned out to be the Patriots' undoing once the Yellow Jackets tried their hand at the same defense.
Consecutive steals and layups -- one by Baker and the other by Dontavius Self -- helped push the lead to 58-45 with 3 minutes, 45 seconds left remaining.
"Once we get it rolling, it is hard to stop us," Baker said. "We will always defend, so when the other team gives us some easy baskets they are in trouble. We feel like we are the type of team that can go on a run at anytime thanks to our defense."
Self added 16 points, while Jarell Nurse had 10 for Starkville.
Braelon Walker led Parkview with 14 points. Daryl Macon had 13 and Jaylen Franklin added 10.
Carter liked what he saw in his team's second meeting against an out-of-state opponent in less than a week. Starkville's losses came at Columbus -- a region setback against the Falcons and a loss to Midfield (Ala.) in the Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic.
"I really like how this team is rounding in shape," Carter said. "We have a good balance and a lot of resolve on the defensive end. We need to rebound more consistently. We are led by a bunch of seniors who have been through some rough knocks to get to this point."
Baker also feels like this team is ready to play good basketball for the stretch run.
"Everybody's goal is to make state and that is our goal too," Baker said. "Our No. 1 goal though is to go out and show people that we are a better basketball team than we were last season. Some teams are taken us lightly because of how we played last season. This is a much different team and we got a chance to carry this thing a long way."
n Aberdeen 56, Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) 45: The Bulldogs won the second game of the day with a dominating defensive performance for two quarters.
Trailing by six points, Aberdeen used an 8-0 run midway through the second quarter buoyed by a string of 11 straight defensive stops.
"We pride ourselves in being a team that plays with great defensive pressure for four quarters," Aberdeen coach Cornelius Gilleylen said. "Fortunately, almost three quarters of great defense was enough. We really got things going in the second quarter and made it difficult for them to get anything inside."
Defense helped Aberdeen build a 21-17 halftime lead. In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs scored a couple of fast-break layups and blew the game open as the visitors missed 12 straight shots from the field.
"We had some struggles early, but I really like how this team is playing," Gilleylen said. "We are beginning to see a run take place. The main thing is confidence. The guys are playing with a lot right now."
Marcus Carouthers led Aberdeen with 17 points. Trent Davis added 10.
Patrick Ehland led Mt. Lebanon (3-4) with 15 points. Jonny David scored all 14 of his points in the second half.
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter