February 15, 2009
Danny P Smith -
BATESVILLE -- The Starkville Lady Yellow Jackets took the tough route to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Division 2 championship.
First the Lady Yellow Jackets defeated No. 2 seed and host South Panola 70-58 on Tuesday night, then completed the tournament run by upsetting top-seeded Tupelo 60-51 at the South Panola High School gym on Friday night.
"Sometimes the hard way turns out to be the best way," Starkville coach Kristie Williams said. "It turned out well for us and I''m so excited. I can''t even put into words how happy I am."
The success for the Lady Yellow Jackets started a good evening for Starkville as the boys also won the division title with a 51-40 victory against South Panola.
In the girls game, the Lady Jackets showed a determination to finish strong after losing a big lead.
"Our main focus was to win, stay together, play with heart and keep up the intensity," said Starkville''s Kierra Jones, who scored 23 points.
Starkville (17-9) built a 17-point lead at 30-13 after a basket by Rebecca Myles with 2 minutes and 23 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Starkville held a 33-19 advantage at halftime, then Tupelo used an 18-2 run to open the second half and took a 37-35 lead on a basket by Amber Jackson with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
After the score was tied 40-40 at the end of the third, the lead changed hands five times in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Jackets took the lead for good at 50-49 on a putback basket by Jones with 1:35 remaining in the game.
Jones refused to let the Lady Golden Wave believe it was their game for the taking.
"When Tupelo came back to take the lead, in my mind I knew we''ve still got this," Jones said. "Some teams get frustrated when they get down, but we never gave up and played as a team."
Starkville made its free throws down the stretch to secure the division trophy with Jones and Shaquinta Robinson making a pair each and Antavious Odneal adding one.
Williams was very proud that her team ''never gave up,'' which is a title of a song by Yolanda Adams that has provided motivation for the Lady Jackets since the playoffs began.
"We''ve adopted that as our motto," Williams said.
Shay Bonner added 12 points for Starkville, while Kala Williams chipped in 11 points.
Amber Jackson had 23 points for Tupelo (22-5).
"Tupelo is a really great team," Williams said. "Coach (Stephanie) Murphy and I are really good friends, but this is awesome. In my five years in Starkville, this is my first time to ever beat Tupelo and it was very fitting that we beat them for the division championship."
The next step in the playoff quest for the Lady Jackets will be the opening of the Class 5A North Tournament at home against Greenville and so do the Jackets. The coaches have agreed to play both games in Starkville on Tuesday night with the girls game starts at 6 p.m.
n Starkville 51, South Panola 40 (B): The Starkville Yellow Jackets got redemption by making up for a 45-41 loss to South Panola just a week earlier.
"After we lost to them, everybody decided to come in with a team effort and pulled out a win," said Starkville''s Edward Townsel, who scored 21 points.
South Panola (19-7) used a slow-down tatic to achieve the win in the first meeting and tried the same thing again once it established a 10-6 lead after the first quarter.
The Jackets (23-4) would not submit this time as they outscored the Tigers 16-8 in the second quarter to gain a 22-18 advantage at halftime.
"They had a pretty good gameplan," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "Once they got the lead, they wanted to slow it down so we changed defenses and tried to speed it up a little bit.
"In the second half, we came out in the third quarter that was the key to the game. We came out and really turned up the defense intensity. We didn''t give them an open look in the third or fourth quarter. We guarded them well and really hit the boards. What it did was allow us to get out in transition and score some easy baskets."
Townsel scored nine of his points in the third quarter as the Jackets increased their advantage to 37-26.
Carter was pleased with the play of Townsel.
"Edward handled the ball real well and dished off well," Carter said. "He drove it to the basket and found some people. That helped a lot because they started keying on him every time he drove it."
After Starkville took as much as a 17-point lead at 47-30 on a pair of free throws by Townsel, South Panola narrowed the gap to 49-40 in the last minute on a 3-pointer by Turkessa Burgess.
The Jackets put the exclamation mark on the victory on a dunk by Jeff Jernigan.
Jernigan and Rashad Perkins followed Townsel in the scoring department for Starkville with 14 points each.
Although winning the division has a special feeling, the Jackets do not want to stop there.
"This was not our ultimate goal when the season started," Carter said. "We talked about winning the district, but it was not all we wanted to win. This is only one goal accomplished, but we''ve got more to go."