March 1, 2014 6:34:36 PM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
STARKVILLE -- Hit open shots, finish at the rim, and defend.
The Starkville High boys basketball team had excelled in those areas this season and were a win away from returning to the Class 6A State Tournament in Jackson. Then, Grenada High, a team the Yellowjackets had beaten twice this season, showed up to The Beehive and did everything better.
It was that simple, according to coach Greg Carter, who watched his team cap a "sluggish month of February" with a 61-43 loss in the 6A North State semis Friday night.
"We're sitting there talking about an opportunity to play for a state tournament berth," Carter said. "When you do some of the things we did tonight, you don't deserve to go. The transition points, not being able to make open shots and finish at the basket -- we didn't do it."
Despite pulling down nearly 20 offensive rebounds and forcing 6-foot-10 Grenada center Joniah White into first half foul trouble, the Jackets trailed by as many as 15 in the first half. Starkville (24-5) was held scoreless for nearly the first four minutes of the second quarter.
But when White had to sit due to two fouls at the 6-minute mark of the second quarter, Starkville mounted a furious rally behind put-backs and contested layups by Raphael Leonard, who scored 14 points, and Dontavious Self. Starkville cut Grenada's lead to 31-26 and went into the break down by eight points.
"When we went back in the locker room, down by nine, coach told us we still had a chance, to defend and rebound," Self said.
But with White back in the game and manning the paint, Starkville opened the second half on a three-minute scoring drought. White registered three blocks and a pair of buckets to spark a 10-0 run that effectively wiped the Jackets out of the game.
"Knowing they got a 6-10, 6-11 kid back there, you do tend to rush shots a litlte bit," Carter said. "But we have to make those shots."
"We just had a bad night on offense, Self said. "Nothing was going in."
Grenada was led by Tyrin Jones, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half. Trey Spencer and LaCurtis Allen each scored 10 points.
"Jones, we couldn't guard him the whole night," Carter said. "Spencer and Allen both scored their average. You let those three guys score like that, they'll have a chance to win every one of them."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.