February 18, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School girls basketball coach Kristie Williams has been smiling ever since her Lady Yellow Jackets won the Mississippi High School Association Class 5A-Division 2 tournament on Friday.
Williams'' smile is even bigger today.
Starkville earned its third-straight victory Tuesday night, defeating the Greenville-Weston Honey Bees 62-58 at the Starkville Gymnasium.
"It''s unbelievable the effort my girls played with," Williams said. "There was a stretch where Greenville made a big run, and I knew they would. (Greenville''s) Breanna Lewis is a great player, and I knew she would step up to create shots for them. It was awesome to see how they stood up to the test. Even though they got challenged at times, they persevered."
Starkville (18-9) advances to the remainder of the Class 5A North Tournament on Friday when it travels to play host Jackson Murrah.
Starkville forward Shay Bonner said she is not ready to be pinched and wants the season to last as long as possible.
"It''s like a dream we haven''t woke up from yet," Bonner said. "Everybody has been doubting us and thinking we couldn''t do it."
It didn''t look good for the Lady Jackets early as the Honey Bees built leads of 11-2 and 13-4 in the first quarter.
Williams attributed the slow start to nerves.
"The girls were uptight because it was a put-out game," Williams said. "We knew we just had to settle down."
Two free throws by Kierra Jones and a basket and free throw by Kala Williams helped Starkville cut its deficit to 13-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Jackets tied the score four times in the second quarter, but didn''t take a 27-26 lead until 1.7 seconds remaining in the first half on two more free throws by Jones (22 points).
Starkville had that advantage at halftime and never let Greenville-Weston regain the lead.
The Lady Jackets led by as many as seven twice in the third quarter. They led 41-34 with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left in the third on a three-point play by Shaquinta Robinson and 43-37 at the two-minute mark on a free throw by Robinson.
The Honey Bees cut the deficit to 52-51 with 4:16 left and to 59-58 with 2:07 to play.
Starkville closed the game with free throws from Kala Williams and Robinson.
The final horn set off a celebration that started at midcourt and carried on to the locker room.
"We were going through the locker room screaming, and even coach was screaming," Bonner said.
Bonner scored 11 points for the Lady Jackets, while Robinson had nine points and Antavious Odneal had eight points.
Odneal''s defense against Lewis drew praise from her coach.
"After going down with her knee injury and having surgery the early part of the year, she was kind of reluctant to get back to her level of hustle that she brings, but she has come back in midseason and has been playing really well," Williams said.
Shay Thomas led Greenville-Weston (20-8) with 19 points, and Lewis had 16.
n Greenville-Weston 53, Starkville 52: It was a tough final couple of minutes for the Starkville Yellow Jackets.
After leading 49-46 lead with 2:27 left in the game, Starkville was outscored 7-3 down the stretch.
Bryce Brown missed a couple of wild 3-pointer in the final 15 seconds for Starkville. Edward Townsel made a 3-pointer as time expired, but it was not enough.
Starkville coach Greg Carter said it was easy to see why the Jackets lost.
"One of the weaknesses we had at the start of the season is still one of our weaknesses -- we turned it over too much," Carter said. "At this time of the year, it not only costs you a game, but can cost you your season."
Townsel led Starkville (23-5) with 15 points, while Rashad Perkins scored 13 points and Jeff Jernigan had 10 points, all in the first half.
For Greenville-Weston, Demario Calvin had 17 points and Robert Williams added 11 points.
Williams did more than score to impress Carter.
"His motor goes non-stop," Carter said. "When that ball goes on that rim, he''s like an animal for that ball, and we struggled keeping him off the glass. In the second half, we rebounded a lot better than we did the first half."
The Hornets got redemption after losing to the Jackets earlier this season in Starkville.
Greenville-Weston coach Ernie Watson, a former coach of the Jackets, said it was a shame one team had to lose, but was happy to be moving on to North State.
"We felt we could win in here," Watson said. "We just made some big shots at the end, and that''s what good teams do."