March 3, 2011 9:46:00 AM
JACKSON -- The Starkville High School boys basketball team''s Class 6A state tournament run ended in the semifinals Wednesday with a 72-43 loss to Meridian High.
The Yellow Jackets (19-9) struggled to keep pace with the Wildcats, who received a game-high 27 points from forward Rodney Hood and 15 from guard Matthew Hurn.
Guard Jacolby Mobley was Starkville''s only source of consistent offense. Mobley, who didn''t play in last year''s state tournament, had 16 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field.
Outside of Mobley, the Yellow Jackets were 10 of 39 from the field.
Starkville coach Greg Carter bemoaned his team''s inability to take advantage of its 17 offensive rebounds and to finish around the basket.
"We had been blowing opportunities under the basket from the start of the game," Carter said. "We''d drive it in there tough, but we wouldn''t finish plays."
Meridian (28-2) avenged its Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A state tournament semifinal loss to the Yellow Jackets last season and will face Vicksburg for the 6A title on Saturday.
The Wildcats beat 6A North Half champ Vicksburg 61-53 on Dec. 20. Vicksburg beat Pascagoula 62-51 in overtime Wednesday to advance to the final.
Meridian is looking for its first state title since 1978.
"We knew what was at stake," Hood said. "We knew who they (Starkville) were. They beat us last year and we remember everything, so we came back this year with a vengeance. It feels good. But I want to win a gold ball."
Hood, a Mississippi State signee, added 10 rebounds, six assists, and three steals. He made 8 of 10 shots from the field and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
But Hood''s efforts left openings for Hurd and guard Nick Waters, who knocked down a trio of 3-pointers to finish with 11 points.
"Rodney''s basketball IQ is just off the charts," Meridian coach Randy Bolden said. "He plays the game the right way, and if anybody''s ever seen him play the game they know. Rodney can be a kid that averages 40 points, but he''s a kid that plays the game the right way. He''s gonna make the right pass, get defensive stops and do the right thing."
Starkville trailed 21-16 midway through the second quarter, but Meridian scored on six of its next seven possessions to take a 34-22 halftime lead.
The Yellow Jackets made it a 10-point game when Tory Rice followed a Mobley miss to make it 37-27, but Meridian used a 20-8 run to close the third quarter. A technical foul from Stanley Childs compounded Starkville''s problems at both ends of the court in the third quarter.
"One dude, he got a technical on our team," Mobley said. "I told them to keep their heads in the game, but everybody just got out of it. I guess they just knew it was over with about that time."
The Wildcats led 57-35 entering the fourth quarter and never saw their lead dip below 20 points.
Meridian used stiff perimeter defense from twins Marcus and Matthew Hurn and Waters to pester Starkville. The Yellow Jackets struggled to get passes into the post and to generate points in the half court. Playing without 6-foot-8 center Gavin Ware, whose strained knee ligaments kept him out of the North State tournament, limited Starkville''s pick-and-roll options. Ware''s unavailability also limited a legitimate post-up option against center Sydney Coleman.
"I told Gavin after the game, I miss him a lot," Mobley said. "It makes it a lot easier when you have a big man down there like Gavin to throw it to. I really do miss Gavin."
Steven Brand had eight points and five rebounds for Starkville, while Rice had three points and six rebounds.