Starkville’s Kirsten Thompson (31) makes a pass during Saturday’s 57-42 win over Minor (Alabama). Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
December 16, 2017 11:22:21 PM
After four minutes of basketball with just one point to show for it, Tabreea Gandy's 3-pointer had the looks of a gift from the basketball gods. Her bucket brought the Starkville High School girls' basketball team within three points of Minor (Alabama) -- but turned out to be little more than a brief distraction.
Before the first quarter ended, Starkville would go on to miss a few more quality shots, including two in one possession, and play a final minute featuring a missed layup, a blocked transition layup and a missed 3-pointer off an inbounds play.
Starkville coach Kristie Williams' message after a four-point first quarter was simple.
"I told them it's there for the taking. You either want it, or you're going to give it away to Minor," she said.
Jariyah Covington was first to answer the call.
Sixteen of Covington's 22 points came in the second quarter in a barrage that included four 3-pointers. It was also part of a run that pushed Starkville to a 57-42 win on the final day of the Joe Horne Christmas Classic Saturday afternoon at the Columbus Gym.
"Jariyah is one of our top shooters and when she's on, she's on," Williams said. "We tried to give her as many opportunities as we could within the rotation of our offense. She stepped up, she made those baskets when she needed to and that's what she brings: she's a senior leader and we expect that from her."
Starkville's first possession of the second quarter ended with a Covington 3 form the top of the key. Before the first 90 seconds of the quarter was up she had another off of a Gandy offensive rebound and assist. Breanna Young took a charge to keep the run going and Gandy did not let the momentum stop, making two free throws and a layup that forced a Minor timeout.
Right out of the timeout, Covington scored again on a dribble drive. Her offensive efficiency in a dire situation could not have been a surprise to any Yellow Jacket.
"I saw how we were struggling to make shots and put in my mind from when we played Columbus at our house and how we started real slow," Covington said, referencing the 45-40 win on Dec. 9.
Starkville (8-1) turned a five-point first-quarter deficit into a 14-point halftime lead and a 19-point third quarter lead -- that nearly disappeared. The Yellow Jackets were stung by turnovers in the fourth quarter that nearly brought Minor within striking distance in the final quarter.
"They came out of nowhere with the press," Gandy said. "We had to call a timeout to get it right and get through it."
Williams is not content with letting it pass as a one-game problem. It will be the emphasis for the Yellow Jackets going forward.
"It's one of those where we're not being consistent like I want us to be," she said. "We're getting out of the gate slow still, we're not playing with that energy, that will. Until we learn to play with that, we're going to keep having these tough games and our games to close out 2017 are going to be really tough.
"We still have a ways to go to be the team I know we can be."
Williams was referencing a stretch of games in the Olive Branch Tournament, the Travis Outlaw tournament and the New Hope Trojan Holiday Tournament in which the Yellow Jackets will meet White Station (Tennessee), Center Hill, Olive Branch and Jackson Academy before beginning district play at Northwest Rankin on Jan. 5.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson