February 28, 2012 8:49:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School boys basketball coach Greg Carter has a short list of keys to victory for his team at the state tournament.
"In the Big House, everybody is really good," Carter said. "It comes down to taking care of the little stuff, that and making shots. I know that sounds simple, but this is not rocket science. The championship teams are the ones who take care of the little stuff and make shots."
No. 3 Starkville (26-4) will try to do both when it takes on No. 1 Wayne County (30-1) at 8 tonight in the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. A live video stream of the game will be available on the MHSAA web site (http://www.misshsaa.com/). The winner will face Callaway or Pascagoula at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the state championship game.
"I can't tell you how excited everybody is about going to Jackson," Starkville senior power forward Tory Rice said. "You work the entire year to get to this point. We aren't taking anything for granted. We have two more games to win."
The Yellow Jackets have become a mainstay in Jackson. Starkville lost to Meridian in the semifinals last year. In 2010, the Yellow Jackets won the school's second boys basketball state championship and first Grand Slam championship.
"There is a sense of satisfaction when you reach this point because it is so hard to get there," Carter said. "But you can't get caught up in the moment because there are still games left to be played. When you get to Jackson, every team is good. Each team has played in and won big games. Each team has won championships. There is not a lot of separation. That is why the attention to detail is so important. You are looking for that one fine-line item that is going to separate two very good teams."
Four other seniors will join Rice in the starting lineup, including Mississippi State University signee Gavin Ware at center. Jacolby Mobley will start at point guard, while brothers Steve and Mike Brand will start on the wings.
"Since this is the senior year for all of us, there is more incentive," Rice said. "You know this is your last chance to become a part of history. We know each other so well. We are at our best when everybody is in the flow. We have shown flashes of being unstoppable.
"We aren't nervous, and we aren't scared because we know what we can be when we play to our potential. We have to find a way to play that way two more times."
Carter said an inability to make shots doomed his team in regular-season losses to Provine, Yazoo City, Ridgeway (Tenn.), and to Callaway in the North State championship game.
"Our attitude and mind-set is right where it needs to be. Carter said. "In the state tournament, you know a team is going to rebound and defend. There is not going to be a letdown of intensity or focus. You will respect the opponent and you will be ready to be at your best.
"That is the human nature of this event. After that, it comes down to the little things and making shots. If we take care of things on our end and make shots, we can beat any opponent we face."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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