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Townsel all smiles after leading Starkville to win


Adam Minichino



TUPELO -- Don''t let the smile fool you. Edward Townsel is an assassin. 


The Starkville High School senior guard has quickness reminiscent of Monta Ellis to blow by even the nimblest of defenders. He has the hops of an Energizer bunny who has just sucked down a Red Bull energy drink.  


Most importantly, his accuracy compares to a carnival marksman, only his daggers are jump shots and pinpoint passes to teammates for layups or dunks. 


And Townsel does it all with a smile. 


That toothy grin was on display for only two and half quarters Friday night, but it was more than enough to push the Yellow Jackets back home. 


Townsel scored 16 consecutive points in the second quarter en route to a game-high 28 to help Starkville ease past Columbus 72-44 in the Class 6A, Division 2, District 4 championship game at Tupelo High. 


"We feel very good with everybody playing good and everybody defending," Townsel said. "We feel like a pretty good team." 


With the victory, Starkville (24-2) will play host to the loser of the Grenada-Jackson Murrah game that was played Saturday night on Tuesday night in Starkville. 


Columbus (13-12) will travel Tuesday to the winner of the Grenada-Jackson Murrah game. 


In the girls game, Chasity Kearney had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals to lead South Panola past Starkville 67-51. 


Starkville (16-8) will go on the road Monday to play at the winner of Saturday''s game between Northwest Rankin and Murrah. 


In the nightcap Friday, Rashad Perkins had 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter to help the Yellow Jackets build a 25-17 lead after eight minutes. By the time Townsel was done in the second quarter, the lead had ballooned to 45-23 after his 3-pointer with 1 minute, 41 seconds to go before halftime ended his 16-point outburst. 


"He just plays at another level of quickness," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "When you combine his ballhandling skills and his shooting ability, it makes him seem like he is quicker than he is." 


The 3-pointer was one of two in the stretch for Townsel, who also showcased his braking power when he pulled up on a dime and hit a jump shot. It took Townsel only 4:50 to score his 16 points and turn what looked like it might be a competitive third meeting into a blowout. 


If someone didn''t know any better they would have thought Townsel was doing his best impersonation of Ellis, the former Jackson Lanier High standout who is a member of the NBA''s Golden State Warriors. Ellis, whose nickname is "Mississippi bullet," might have been faster in high school than Townsel, but it was hard to quibble with anything the senior guard did Friday night. 


"I guess the basket was looking that big to him," said Columbus coach Sammy Smith, holding his arms out wide in front of him in the shape of a circle. "He put it in the hole. I am not going to say we weren''t trying to guard him, but, at the same time, we had no intensity or fight about us. But when that basket is looking that big anybody can go through there. Coach Carter had those boys ready to play." 


The only hiccups for Starkville came early in the third quarter, when Townsel had consecutive turnovers and Perkins missed a dunk and then goaltended a jump shot by Bobby Wrench.  


Townsel flashed his trademark smile after the second turnover, a traveling violation after he tried to hop, skip, and jump through several defenders. He kept the smile as he jogged back down court and took his defensive stance. 


Townsel said it is very difficult not to play basketball with a smile. He said wearing a smile "is all I do," even after mistakes. But Townsel said he doesn''t allow miscues to affect his game. He said sometimes he is the only one who can take himself out of games. 


Defenders might try to disrupt his flow, but it''s extremely difficult because Townsel has 3-point range from NBA distance. If you try to get up in his grill, Townsel will be past you before you have thought about it and most likely have scored or dished off for a rim-shaking dunk to Perkins or center Gavin Ware. 


Townsel also can weave his way to the basket for layups or move inside the arc and showcase a deadly mid-range game. Either way, he was feeling it in the Yellow Jackets'' third victory in as many tries against Columbus this season. 


"I kind of got in that zone (in the second quarter)," Townsel said. 


Carter said Townsel has had a smile on his face most nights this season. One of the only times he didn''t came in a loss to Tupelo at Tupelo. A second game in four days in that same gym didn''t affect Townsel one bit. 


"When he gets on a roll he is hard to stop because you have to stay in front of him and he can pull up on a dime and shoot it from 20 (feet)," Carter said. "He gets going like that I don''t know what to do to stop him." 


Akeem Toppin led Columbus with 10 points, while Wrench and Deontae Jones each had eight. 


"Starkville shot that thing like nothing else in the world and we were totally not ready," Smith said. "We ran into the best team in the state of Mississippi tonight. They were on a mission." 


n South Panola 67, Starkville 51 (G): It wasn''t the Lady Yellow Jackets'' night. 


Coming off an emotional victory Tuesday against Tupelo on the Lady Golden Wave''s home floor, Starkville didn''t have the emotion or energy to handle Kearney or South Panola. 


The Yellow Jackets trailed 28-23 at halftime thanks in part to 11 first-half points by Kala Williams. But a slow start to the second half that included six missed shots and two turnovers dropped the Yellow Jackets into a 37-23 hole. The lead slipped under 10 points just once the remainder of the game despite a host of attempts by Starkville coach Kristie Williams to change the momentum. 


"I went A through Z , SOS (Save Our Ship), anything I could get my hands on," Williams said. "I just couldn''t find the right button to push tonight. Unfortunately, we will be on the road for a playoff game." 


South Panola coach Ralph Stallings sensed a difference in Starkville''s level of play from Tuesday night and said his team did a good job of dictating the tempo. 


"I don''t think they had the same intensity they had against Tupelo," Stallings said. 


Kearney, who Stallings said is being recruited heavily by Division II Delta State, was the most aggressive player on the court, controlling the paint and slicing between or in front of defenders all night for easy points in the paint. 


The result was an easier than expected victory for South Panola (17-5). 


"Between now and Sunday at practice I told them to go home and get the Lady Jacket that played on Tuesday night and bring her to practice Sunday because I will need her for Monday night''s game," Williams said.  


Kala Williams finished with 20 points for Starkville, while Briana Henderson added five points. 


Stallings said he didn''t have to give his players a motivational speech prior to the game to get such an inspired effort. 


"I got some of my best performances from my seniors tonight," Stallings said. "I think they realized this is their last go-around and this could be something special. They wanted to make history (and win the first Class 6A, District 4 title)." 


Christa Brown added 19 points, while Turkessa Burgess and Dorian Winfield each had nine points for South Panola. 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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