December 9, 2009 10:31:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- The Aberdeen and Starkville high school basketball teams split a varsity doubleheader here Tuesday evening in the Roy E. Hazzle Gymnasium.
In a marquee matchup that was supposed to feature two unbeaten girls teams led by a pair of high-profile scorers, Aberdeen''s Dayana McGee came up with a clutch rebound and Regina Barker popped in a buzzer-beating layup to steal the spotlight from their more celebrated teammate and give the Lady Bulldogs a 64-62 triumph -- their sixth straight win of the season.
The nightcap didn''t bode as well for the recently re-stocked Bulldogs, however, as Aberdeen stalled in the third quarter and dropped a 67-49 decision to the Yellow Jackets in coach Roy Hazzle''s first game in the newly named gymnasium.
The girls game was billed as a matchup between two of the area''s better players: Aberdeen''s Jameika Hoskins and Starkville''s Kala Williams and, true to form, both players led their teams in scoring. But McGee''s and Barker''s heroics, along with a couple of key baskets by Michelle Stewart, saved the day for the Lady Bulldogs in what turned out to be a nip-an-tuck affair.
"What it all boiled down to was that our girls found a way to win," Aberdeen coach Latorrence Bivens said. "We called a time out there in the last minute and decided this was our house and there was no way we were going to get beat in our own house."
Leading by three (33-30) at halftime, the Lady Bulldogs increased their lead to seven points three times in the third quarter before Starkville pulled to 45-43 entering the fourth quarter.
The comeback was orchestrated by Shay Bonner, who converted 5 of 6 free throws and then bagged a layup to give Starkville a 47-46 advantage, its first lead of the second half, at the 7-minute, 2-second mark of the fourth quarter.
Trailing 55-51, Barker scored on a layup with just under three minutes to go. Forty seconds later, Stewart did likewise and then added a free throw to give the Lady Bulldogs their first lead, 56-55, since early in the fourth quarter. Six lead changes in the final two minutes found Aberdeen down 61-60 with 34 seconds left, but Stewart''s second layup made it a 62-61 game at the 18.7 mark.
Hoskins then fouled Williams with 13.9 seconds remaining. Williams bagged the first free throw to tie the game at 62, but missed the second. McGee grabbed the rebound and Barker drove straight up the middle at the opposite for the game-winner.
"The only thing I told them there at the end was to get a good shot," Bivens said. "Fortunately, we''ve got five who can score, not just one."
"Our hats are off to Aberdeen," said Starkville head coach Kristie Williams. "They played with great intensity, a lot more intensity than we showed, and that will win big games like this every time."
Williams, no relation to her star player, said her team''s unbeaten streak could have remained intact, but late-game mistakes made the difference.
"We had a couple of key turnovers and missed some free throws late in the game and without those, there could have been a different turn of events," Williams said.
Hoskins claimed game-scoring honors with 27 points. Sommer Burnett chipped in with 10 to give the Lady Bulldogs a pair of double-figure scorers. Stewart (nine), Barker (eight), and McGee (eight) just missed the twin-digit mark.
Williams finished with 20 for Starkville, Bonner added 18, and Rebecca Myles hit for nine to pace the Lady Jackets.
"You have to give credit to Starkville," Bivens said. "They gave us a hard blow early on and we compounded matters by missing layups and other easy baskets, but we have great chemistry on this team, and they knew they had to stop Williams for us to be successful."
In the boys'' game, a dozen new faces were added to the roster following the Aberdeen High football team''s disappointing loss to Tylertown on Saturday in the Class 3A state finals in Jackson. The additions helped Aberdeen build a six-point lead with a little more than three minutes left in the second quarter.
Leading 35-32 at halftime despite losing the services of guard Mario Lucas with a cut finger on his shooting hand, Aberdeen''s fortunes took a turn for the worst when a 20-7 third-quarter Starkville blitz gave coach Greg Carter''s squad a 52-42 lead entering the final period.
The key to the visitors'' win was a rash of turnovers and missed shots, coupled with a relentless defensive effort that kept Aberdeen off the scoreboard from the 2:08 mark in the third quarter until Rashad Pargo''s basket with 4:20 remaining.
"The main thing we talked about at halftime was our need to play better defense," Carter said. "We stressed that to win, we had to guard them and that would be the best chance we had to stay unbeaten."
The Yellow Jackets took Carter''s advice to heart, as they allowed just seven points in the third quarter and seven more in the fourth.
"We had a different attitude there in the second half, that''s for sure," Carter said.
"Losing Mario hurt us," said Hazzle, who was looking for his first win in the gymnasium named after him in a Sunday ceremony. "Mario''s injury, plus the fact our football players aren''t in basketball shape yet, made the difference in the second half.
"But we did lose to a good team, which is well coached. The key for us now is to get in basketball shape and then, with the depth we have at all positions, I think we''ll come together."
Seven Yellow Jackets finished with four points or more. Guard Edward Townsel, who dribbled over a minute off the clock at the end of the game, led all scorers with 24 points. Jacolby Mobley added 14, followed by USM signee Rashad Perkins (eight), Gavin Ware (eight), Shaquille Hill (seven), Quez Johnson (six), and Craig Armstead (four).
Anthony McDonald and Pargo shared scoring honors for Aberdeen with 13 points apiece, and Earnest Williams finished with 10. Rounding out the scoring for the Bulldogs were Channing Ward and Lucas (four), Fred Ward (three), and Aaron Andrews (two).
"Despite the loss, we did see some good things," Hazzle said. "Fred Ward and Channing Ward did a good job on their big kid (Ware) inside, and McDonald shot well from the outside. With a little work, I think we''re going to be all right."
2. Mixed reaction to decision to move MHSAA football title games HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Heritage Academy softball will try to take next step HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS