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Unhappy ending: Jackets' season ends with thud

 

Matthew Stevens

 

 

JACKSON -- The Wayne County High School boys basketball team was simply 

 

better than Starkville in every way possible. 

 

In a blowout victory during the Class 5A state semifinals Tuesday night, Wayne County was able to play every style and speed for a dominating 50-30 victory over the Yellow Jackets. 

 

"We weren't very good in any facet of the game tonight," Starkville High School coach Greg Carter said shaking his head as he followed his team into the locker room. "I don't understand it. Ain't like we'd never played here before." 

 

In fact, Carter comment is filled with irony because Tuesday night marks back-to-back seasons that the Yellow Jackets season has ended in the Mississippi Coliseum during the semifinal round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association playoffs. 

 

Starkville (26-5) seemingly couldn't hit a single outside shot throughout the evening after consistent open looks found the rim in a 2-for-19 effort from beyond the three-point arc. 

 

"We were missing shots from everywhere inside, open looks and I don't know what it was," Carter said. 

 

On every long rebounding following a missed three-pointer Wayne County's athletic pushed the tempo for easy baskets building a lead they would never relinquish after going up 4-2. The War Eagles (33-1) were one of the first teams to open a game with the plan of having success in a up-and-down style with Starkville this season. 

 

"We can't walk it up and down the floor with them," Wayne County coach Ronald Norman said. "They're bigger than us everywhere so all they would have to do is pound it into the big guy." 

 

Despite shooting just 9-of-26 from the field in the first half, Wayne County found themselves up 25-17 as both teams entered the locker room for the halftime break. A major reason for Starkville's lowest offensive output of the 2011-12 season is senior guard Jacolby Mobley going scoreless in 24 minutes of action. 

 

"Had we been able to stay out of our own way in the first half then even that whole half would've been different," Carter said. 

 

The 5-foot-11 sharpshooter picked up his second foul with one minute, 58 seconds left in the first quarter and his third personal less than two minutes to go before halftime. 

 

The senior then lost his composure with a technical foul as Wayne County began to extend its lead and Starkville's second-leading scorer wouldn't score in his final high school game. 

 

"He wasn't getting a whole lot of shot attempts as it was," Carter said. "We were missing shots from everywhere with him on the bench too." 

 

Wayne County was led by the athleticism of senior guard/forward Raeford Worsham. In front of the two coaches he'll be playing his college basketball for next season, Arkansas State University coach John Brady and assistant coach Richard Williams, Worsham led all players with 24 points and 15 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 swing player made more shots from the free-throw line (11) than Starkville's entire team (8). 

 

"He put us on his shoulders and got it done," Norman said. Norman, whose team will try for back-to-back state championships Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Jackson Callaway High School, is now 3-0 in his bright orange blazer after winning both games in Jackson last year when he broke out the unique fashion statement. 

 

"I can't be cute here on the sidelines," Norman joked. "At least I think I'm coaching over here and so I hope to be 4-0 in this jacket come Saturday." 

 

Worsham said after the game he was very aware of the matchup in the lane with Starkville center Gavin Ware. The War Eagles dominated points in the paint 26-14 throughout the evening. 

 

"When you got a 6-foot-8, 260-pound guy under the goal, you got to find your shots," Worsham said. 

 

Ware, who is signed with Mississippi State University, finished with a team-high 10 points and 10 rebounds in his final high school game but had just one point in the second half after Norman collapsed the defense on Starkville's inside presence. 

 

"He'd be open for a split second and then as soon as you know, they'd have two or three guys in there around him," Carter said. "I know it's frustrating for him but if we make any shots, life is a lot easier for him." 

 

Starkville got a 1-for-19 shooting effort from starters Mobley, Steven Brand and Tory Rice. 

 

Wayne County completely flipped the tempo with a four corners approach in the second half that took several minutes off the clock and took away the little hope of a Starkville comeback late in the game. 

 

Asked if this Yellow Jackets group, which has a senior class that has played together since early middle school, has ever played this poorly and Carter simply shook his head. 

 

"No - not like that," Carter said. "Not at all."

 

 

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