January 30, 2018 11:10:39 PM
STARKVILLE -- The best version of the Starkville boys basketball team is a serious danger for anyone trying to contend for a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A championship. Tuesday night gave such contenders a glimpse of what that looks like.
On top of suffocating Murrah's offense in the early goings, Starkville connected on nine first-half 3-pointers to begin an 82-54 win Tuesday night. The win secured Starkville's District 3 regular season crown on top of yet another statement from the state championship hopefuls.
"We shot it real well tonight and defended it real well, too," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "We had a little bit of a letdown in the fourth quarter, but in general I thought we played real well on both sides of the court.
"If we get a few stops, it's going to be hard (to beat us). That's the thing we always talk about: we make shots most of the time -- we don't always make them at the rate we made them tonight -- but when we're making shots, all we need is a couple of stops."
Starkville (17-5, 5-0) certainly got those stops as it held Murrah to seven first-quarter points on top of two steals in the first quarter, both courtesy of Jordan Temple. Carter prides himself on running a program with a trademark of defense creating offense, but with this team, it's possible the reverse is just as true.
"When we make a few shots, we tend to defend really well," Carter said.
Temple agrees: "We play really confident when we see a couple of shots go in. It turns us up. We get better on defense as shots go in."
On Tuesday, Starkville had plenty of shots go in.
The first-half 3-point barrage was a relatively evenly distributed affair, other than Tyler Talley coming off the bench and catching fire for three in the second quarter alone. In the starting lineup, Donte Powers, Blake Rogers, Temple and Jamarrion Brown all had one 3-pointer each; Natrone Brooks had one off the bench and Talley had one in the first quarter before his trio in the second.
Of those nine first-half 3-pointers, seven of them were assisted.
"This team shoots it better than any team I've ever had," Carter said. "This is a really unselfish team. They always make the extra pass. When you watch us play from the first game of the season until now, this team always makes the extra pass. Most of the time, when you make that extra pass, that shot goes in."
Later in the game, Starkville showed it was not dependent on the 3-pointer. Rogers led the Yellow Jackets with 17 points but got eight of them from the free throw line; Temple got five of his 10 from there, as well. Brown, Powers and Talley all also finished with double-digit points with 14, 13 and 12, respectively, in addition to nine from Brooks.
The win clinched the District 3 regular season title and the top seed in the upcoming district tournament. The Yellow Jackets still have games against Madison Central, Okolona and Noxubee County on Feb. 2, 6 and 9, respectively, to finish the season, but even those three games the district tournament that follows are just the pathway to what Starkville wants.
"It's good to know you're going into the district tournament as the No. 1 seed, but that's not our top priority," Carter said. "We have to win the district tournament, that's our next goal, and there's more after that."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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