Senior Blake Rogers will lead the Starkville boys against Warren Central Saturday night in the MHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
March 1, 2018 10:27:50 PM
STARKVILLE -- The quintessential game for this year's Starkville High School boys' basketball team came on Jan. 30. The Yellow Jackets buried nine first-half 3-pointers to build the a convincing lead yet gave Murrah nothing to take away, as it garnered those 3-pointers in a variety of ways and with a variety of players.
It was also quintessential in that, with all the problems Starkville presented, Blake Rogers was heavily involved in all of it.
On that night, Rogers had one of the nine first-half 3-pointers and assisted others; in general, whenever Starkville makes a run, Rogers is somehow a key part of it. Starkville will need more of the same as it goes to the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson at 8:30 p.m. Saturday for the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A quarterfinals against Harrison Central.
"I guess it's hard to explain, but at the same time, guys that can make shots, it seems like the ball finds them at the right time. It always finds him," Starkville coach Greg Carter said.
It's all come in a way Carter isn't used to. Carter is not known to use lineups as small as this one and play with this little height on the floor, but Rogers and company present him with a team armed to shoot the 3-pointer, so that's what he does.
"It's usual now -- not until this year. I'm fine with it because I understand we're not going to finish at the basket over teams, most teams are going to be bigger than us," Carter said. "We try to put four guys on the floor that can make 3's at all times. One guy may have an off night, two guys may have an off night, but it's hard for everybody to have an off night.
"We need all of them to hit the 3 down in Jackson. It doesn't take much to see we're small, we play a lot of small guys. We take advantage of what we can: we're not going to be the best team shooting around the basket, so we take 3's. The way we do it is probably a little unconventional because we'll come down the court 3-on-1 and shoot a 3. Last game, we had a 2-on-1 break and shot a 3."
It's fit into Rogers' game perfectly, as Carter says that is his exact role. He has unquestionably been the team's perimeter shooting specialist and the one who tends to have the ball on critical possessions; Starkville's opponents have noticed.
"Lately teams have been trying to deny him, trying to take that away," Carter said. "In the last game, I thought he did a really good job of driving to the basket. He's got to have a counter."
Rogers showed that counter in the second round game against Warren Central, a 62-43 win. Rogers made 14 of his 16 free throw attempts to keep his offensive output consistent despite increased attention on his 3-point shooting.
Rogers is preparing as if that's what he'll be forced to do as long as this season lasts.
"Coaches say I'll get denied the rest of the season. I have to get used to it," Rogers said. "I think teams now are trying to focus in on me a little harder. Now it's about getting everyone else involved while trying to stay aggressive. I have to move around a lot more: I have to set screens, cut harder, move around more."
Rogers is prepared to do more of it, if that's what is required, but Starkville is in no way letting its best shooter or the squad of shooters that surround him stray away from their identity. When the Yellow Jackets arrived at the Mize Pavilion at Mississippi State for its Wednesday practice, the first thing it did was individual shooting.
This is a group of shooters, Rogers included, that doesn't worry about taking their shots to different buildings.
"We don't worry about that kind of stuff," Rogers said.
They've done it all year; now they want to do it three more times for a state championship.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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