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Starkville captures North State title

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- This time, there would be no Greenville-Weston upset at The Beehive.  

 

Starkville High School guard Edward Townsel said he and his teammates had long put last year''s shocking loss to Greenville-Weston in the MHSAA Class 5A North State Tournament behind them. 

 

But with the way the Yellow Jackets played Saturday it seemed like there was some revenge on tap in their 80-63 win to clinch the Class 6A North State championship.  

 

The win capped a pair of explosive games in the North State Tournament, begging the question, "Is this the year Starkville brings home the gold ball?"  

 

With one trophy down after a clinic against Greenville-Weston, the Jackets feel good about advancing to the Class 6A State Tournament in Jackson, where they''ll play Biloxi at 2:30 p.m. on March 3. 

 

"You couldn''t really see it, but we were feeling like we were coming together as a team back in January," said Townsel, who scored a game-high 20 points. "Game after game after game; you could just feel it. This feels good to do it in our house and we''re ready to go win it all." 

 

Starkville''s North State crown is head coach Greg Carter''s third and he likened this year''s squad to his last North title squad.  

 

"We had Provine down by about 25 or 30 in here," Carter said. "But we had a 14-day layoff and it was all forgotten when we got down to Jackson. This was the second season. State tournament is an entirely different season to itself, even though it''s only two games.  

 

"We''ve still got a 10-day layoff and a lot of people think we might take a day off, but we''ll be in here practicing Monday." 

 

The Jackets got double-doubles from their two starting forwards, Rashad Perkins and Gavin Ware. Perkins had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Ware had 11 points and 15 rebounds.  

 

Greenville didn''t have the size inside to match Starkville and the hosts made last year''s Beehive villain look overmatched up front. 

 

"It was big with me and Shad having double doubles," Ware said. "They played really well, but with me being as physical as I am they couldn''t really handle that with my height and size. I just used that to my advantage on the boards and to get myself in position to score and getting easy buckets." 

 

Much like they did in Friday''s win against Vicksburg, the Jackets came out of the gate strong and showed the same kind of intensity and efficiency against Greenville-Weston.  

 

Perkins and Townsel each hit a 3-pointer on a 12-2 run to start the game. Meanwhile, Greenville-Weston missed five of its first six shots and found themselves in a 27-10 hole at the and of the first quarter when the Jackets closed the period on an 8-2 run.  

 

The Jackets did damage from the perimeter, making nine from behind the arc in the first half. 

 

"They were just falling, I guess," Townsel said with a grin. 

 

The Hornets got to within 47-36 midway through the third quarter but saw a walk called on Randy Ware before he was whistled for a technical foul for throwing the ball at a referee. On top of that, the Hornets missed their next three shots while Starkville extended its lead from 11 to 17.  

 

A pair of Calvin Young layups gave the Jackets a 20-point lead at the end of the third and full control to run some clock in the fourth quarter.  

 

Carter lauded his team''s ability to carry the energy from Friday''s win to Saturday''s championship game, but he also credited the home atmosphere.  

 

"We didn''t (lose energy) and I''ve got to give our fans some credit for that, too," Carter said. "They were incredible last night (Friday) and they came back and showed up again tonight. I think that gives the players a little bit of extra juice sometimes. I think it defnitely did tonight." 

 

n Starkville 84, Vicksburg 67: Every gun was loaded. Every trigger was pulled. Every target was hit.  

 

It was that kind of night for Starkville in its semifinal game against Vicksburg.  

 

The Yellowjackets ran the court and scored too many ways to be defended.  

 

Perkins and Townsel were held to a combined five first-half points when both picked up two fouls  in the first quarter and went to the bench.  

 

Neither played for the entire second quarter, but it didn''t matter because the much-hailed sophomore class filled in brilliantly. Mike Brand and Tory Rice scored eight points off the bench. Rice grabbed eight rebounds, while Gavin Ware had 10 points and nine rebounds. 

 

The early fireworks were part of a first quarter that saw both teams light up the board in a 28-24 Starkville advantage.  

 

"We''ve been telling them all year, ''when you get in the game you got to contribute,''" said Townsel, who finished with a team-high 18 points. "Tonight, it seemed like they felt it. Neither one of them (Rice and Brand) came in the game scared; they came in scoring and holding defense. After me and Shad (Perkins) saw that on the bench (we thought) ''they''re playing like this, we''ve got to come out in the second half and play.''" 

 

The early fuel from the bench and guard Jaquez Johnson''s back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game laid down a gauntlet that gave Vicksburg the only option of trying to keep up.  

 

The third quarter was Starkville''s, too, as it held Vicksburg to eight points before building a 16-point lead heading into the final frame.  

 

Perkins picked up his third foul mid-way through the quarter and went back to the bench, but Townsel was back with a bang for the rest of the game.  

 

His presence created more fast-break opportunities and more second-chance shots, an area Vicksburg head coach Dellie Robinson said was his team''s downfall in the loss. 

 

"We average 75 points a game and are a fast-break ball club too, so we knew coming in that we''d need to match that intensity and keep up with them," Robinson said. "Rebounding killed us, though, and we couldn''t match them on the boards. It eventually caught up to us." 

 

Vicksburg''s leading scorer, Kelsey Howard, finished with a game-high 24 points and Mychal Ammons had 18, but the difference was Vicksburg''s role players not producing like Starkville''s bench players,  

 

 

 

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