Columbus sophomore Aniya Sadler (31) takes a shot over the defense of Starkville senior Tabreea Gandy (10) during Tuesday night’s opening contest. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
November 14, 2017 11:23:51 PM
When the shots were not falling Tuesday night, the Starkville High girls' basketball team went in another direction.
Full-court pressure, turnovers and easy baskets in transition provided the difference as Starkville beat Columbus 48-27 at the Falcon Lair.
"This team really has to play defense to win," Starkville senior Tabreea Gandy said. "Once we got some stops on defense, it really lifted our offense. We got some easy baskets and everybody started playing better."
Columbus built a 13-6 lead after scoring on the opening possession of the second quarter. The Lady Jackets missed their first six shots from 3-point range and were staring at a 2 for 11 stat line at that time.
Things turned as Starkville used a 20-1 run to end the half to build a 26-14 halftime lead.
"The thing about this team is we don't get rattled, especially early in a game," Starkville senior Jah Covington said. "We just stay disciplined. There are few things that we haven't worked through as a team before."
The only starter lost off last season's Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A state championship squad is center Kelsey Jones. The Lady Jackets will continue to experiment close to the basket. The team's togetherness will help the squad while things fall together.
"We lost a really great player (Jones)," Covington said. "That doesn't mean we need to stop what we are doing. We believe in ourselves. I think (playing without Jones) will make us go harder this year. Other players will have to step up."
Covington had a pair of 3-point baskets during the 20-1 run. Jalisa Outlaw added one, while Breanna Young had an old-fashioned 3-point play.
The Lady Jackets will be perimeter dominant early while the inside game continues to develop.
"Sometimes, we are a little too unselfish," Starkville coach Kristie Williams said. "As a coach, it is the type of team you want to see, though. I will take my chances with a team that plays hard and wants other players to be in the spotlight. Just continuing to grow and develop is the main thing. The chemistry on this team is outstanding."
While Jones was the lone senior last season, the Lady Jackets will count on four of them this season.
"The seniors have played together for a long time," Gandy said. "We are a hungry bunch. Everybody likes coming to the gym and working on being the best team we can become. We really can't take anybody lightly this year. We have to be a little more focused and driven. However, when we do that and play to our capabilities, we have a chance to win a lot of games."
After Columbus pulled within 10 at 28-18, Starkville forced four turnovers, scored six points off the takeaways and rebuilt a commanding lead.
A 10-0 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth quarter stretched the lead to 44-21.
"The main concern are the slow starts," Williams said. "We have to be a better team starting games. We have been slow in each of the first three games. Time will fix that. When we get the defense going and score in transition, we can become a good basketball team."
Covington had 17 points, while Gandy had 14 points for Starkville (3-0).
Columbus (3-1) received six points from Hannah White.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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