December 22, 2009 2:45:00 PM
The relationship was forged in Starkville Area Youth basketball.
The legacy started in the sixth grade with a point guard and a center.
Edward Townsel, the guard, was just as fast. Rashad Perkins, the center, was just as tough, but no, he couldn''t dunk.
Fast forward to Saturday night. Townsel and Perkins have used years of playing together and developed an ability to sense what the other is going to do on the basketball court.
So if you have seen them play in high school, you had to know that at some point in the Yellow Jackets'' game against No. 1 Provine at the 13th-annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational that Townsel and Perkins were going to team on a rim-shaking dunk.
Townsel and Perkins provided twice the fun, pairing on one dunk in the third quarter and another in the fourth to help push the Yellow Jackets past Provine 81-79.
Townsel scored a team-high 21 points, while Perkins added 16, including two game-saving plays in the final 5.5 seconds, to help Starkville improve to 10-0.
For their efforts, Townsel and Perkins are The Commercial Dispatch Prep Players of the Week.
You need only to examine how one of the dunks unfolded to see what makes Townsel and Perkins work so well together. This time, Perkins had the basketball and was leading the fastbreak. He understood, though, that it would better to have it in Townsel''s hands, so he flicked it to him and continued to charge toward the rim. They didn''t need a secret high sign, only years of playing together to know Townsel was going to keep pushing and loft a perfect alley-oop to the left of the rim that Perkins was going to punctuate in his typical sky-walking fashion.
"We know each other pretty good, so if I give it to him on the break he is going to be looking for me because he knows I am going to run," Perkins said.
Said Townsel, "It has just become a habit."
Townsel said he works in practice on the placement of his alley-oops and all of his passes to Perkins.
Perkins said they have worked hard together to build a "bond" that defies defenses.
"We have been playing so long together we basically know what the other person is going to do," Perkins said.
Perkins wasn''t able to rattle the rafters in the sixth grade, but he teamed with Townsel on their SAY team to win a championship. This season, they hope the Yellow Jackets have what it takes to capture a Class 6A state title.
Perkins said Townsel''s size and ability to handle the basketball and to break down defenses make him so strong.
Townsel said Perkins is "all out at all times" and is a teammate who makes his job a lot easier.
Perkins showcased those skills in the final seconds when he blocked a potential go-ahead putback by Jalen Courtney. He then intercepted an inbounds pass on the next play and flipped the ball to Craig Armstead, who hit 1 of 2 free throws. Townsel then picked off the final inbounds pass to seal the deal.
Starkville High coach Greg Carter has watched for years as Townsel and Perkins have honed their games. He said his two standouts have known each other since the third grade. Two years ago, they were both members of the varsity basketball team but didn''t see much playing time.
Things have changed the past two years, as both players have been the stingers that make the Yellow Jackets so potent.
Against Provine, Townsel was a one-man press breaker. Many times, he anticipated the before it came, passing off to avoid a double team to help the offense stay in rhythm.
"He handles the ball so well and he is so quick with it that it is hard for people to trap him," Carter said. "He keeps his head up the entire time, which puts a lot of pressure on the defense. If they make a mistake more than likely he''s going to burn you. It is hard to find guys who can handle the ball and who are as quick as he is."
Carter said Perkins, who has signed a scholarship to play basketball next fall at Southern Miss, has worked hard to make sure he''s always on the receiving end of Townsel''s passes.
"I remember when I first met him as a ninth-grader and they said all he could do was dunk," Carter said. "He used that as motivation and kept working to get better and better. He has expanded his game a great deal since the ninth grade, and he keeps working at it. He is so athletic and plays so hard that some of the things he does seem effortless."
Perkins said he used those comments to motivate him. He said his shooting and defense have improved and have allowed him to develop a well-rounded game.
Townsel has honed his other skills, too, to avoid earning the label of only being a quick point guard. He said he has worked in the gym to build confidence in his jump shot to the point that it is "real, real good" and that it is something he can count on.
All of those elements were on display Friday and Saturday at Columbus High. Both players hope they can do their part to make sure Starkville High will be on display later this season in Jackson when it comes time to hand out championship hardware.
"The victory against Provine means a lot because in the past years we have played them and they have come away with the victory," Perkins said. "This game shows us we are improving. It was a level-tester to see what level game we''re on. Our whole team played good and we shared the ball in the beginning. We just have to learn how to keep it together at the end so games won''t be that close."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.