March 13, 2010 11:48:00 PM
JACKSON -- If ever a player was instrumental in carrying his team to a victory, Rashad Perkins did it Friday afternoon.
Perkins was a stalwart on both ends of the court to help the Starkville High School boys basketball team slip past West Bolivar 57-56 in the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Grand Slam Championship at Mississippi Coliseum.
The 6-foot-5 Southern Miss signee scored 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists, and blocked five shots to lead the Class 6A state champion past the upset-minded Class 2A state champion.
"He carried us through some crucial stretches," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "He was either making a big shot or passing the ball off for a layup. He blocked a shot here and there. He rebounded. He made some big plays."
Perkins'' presence was never more prominent than when he blocked a shot by Davion King on the final play of the game.
West Bolivar coach Willie E. Thomas wanted a goaltending call, but his plea was to no avail and the Yellow Jackets stormed off the court in celebration.
A goaltending would have given West Bolivar the upset.
"We thought it was a goaltend, but it wasn''t called and it won''t be changed," Thomas said. "We''re just elated to be here. We got a chance to play against the big boys and we showed we can play. That shows a lot when you''re talking about the different classifications. A lot of times the smaller schools are looked over. But here we went from 2A all the way to 6A. We didn''t take any stops in between. We went from 1A (beating Ingomar on Thursday) to 6A and we competed."
The dramatic ending was set up when Starkville''s Calvin Young missed a free throw, leaving West Bolivar 8.7 seconds to attempt a winning shot.
Mack Foster got the ball into to the frontcourt and eventually to King, who put up a high arching shot left of the lane and Perkins went up with an outstretched hand and swatted the ball toward half court and time expired.
"It wasn''t goaltending," Perkins said. "I got it on its way up."
Perkins scored on six dunks, including two off alley-oops from Edward Townsel, one when he ricocheted a pass off the backboard to himself, and one on a putback.
Perkins and Townsel have developed their timing on the alley-oop dunks.
"It''s real fun," Perkins said. "We enjoy putting on a show. That''s what we enjoy doing the most for the fans, putting on a show."
Perkins gave the Yellow Jackets their biggest lead, 34-22, with 5 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter when he threw an underhanded pass off the backboard from the free-throw line and rocked the rim with a slam dunk.
"We''ve seen him do that before," Carter said. "He''s done it in practice. When he did it we just looked at each other like, ''I can''t believe it happened in a game.''
"That was total improvisation. He looked to the corner and couldn''t make the pass and there was no one between him and the basket, so he just threw it off the backboard. It happened in just split second."
Following Perkins'' dunk, West Bolivar used an 18-5 run to take a 40-39 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The final period was closely contested, with a tie and seven lead changes. There were four ties and 13 lead changes.
"This was a tough game," Carter said. "It was a tough game to coach. Preparation for the game was difficult. We had three or four days of practice coming off of winning a state championship and it''s difficult to come back in and say, ''OK, we''ve got another game now.'' But once you tip if off you''ve got to be ready and you''ve got to step up and get it done.
"We knew they were a good team They might be 2A, but they won a state championship and beat some good teams. They''re a good team."
Starkville led 16-13 at the end of the first quarter and 28-22 at halftime before opening the 34-24 advantage, but couldn''t never put West Bolivar away.
"We made it harder than it was," Perkins said. "It shouldn''t have been that tough. We started out not taking it that serious. I don''t think it should have been like that considering we''re a 6A and they''re a 4A or 3A -- a 2A It shouldn''t have been that close. "
"I think we were a bit overconfident. I''m not taking anything away from them because they''re a good team. I don''t think it should have been that close.."
West Bolivar got back into the game with its half-court trap and forcing Starkville into turnovers. The Yellow Jackets committed 16.
"We haven''t had much problems with half-court traps all year, but they made us look like we''ve never practiced for a half-court trap," Carter said. "They were quick and they knew where to rotate to. Tonight we looked like a junior high team. They were pretty good. They''re a well-coached team. I''ve known coach Thomas for a long time. He does a real good job with them. He keeps them disciplined. He doesn''t let them play too fast. They don''t make a whole lot of mistakes."
Thomas was gracious in defeat despite not getting the goaltending goal.
"We''re not going to hold our heads down," Thomas said. "We''re not going to go bash anybody. I''m just proud of the way my kids played. It''s all about sportsmanship. As long as we show sportsmanship and line up after the ballgame and shake hands, we''re OK. Once we leave that floor that ballgame is over. That''s the attitude I have, and that''s the attitude I like for my kids to have."
The only other player to score in double figures for Starkville was Calvin Young (team-high seven rebounds) with 16 points.
Millaun Brown had 19 points and seven rebounds, guard Cord Walker had 14 points and four assists, and King had 10 points and eight rebounds for West Bolivar (24-9).