February 9, 2011 8:49:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School boys basketball team beat Columbus to set up its much-anticipated district tile clash against Tupelo.
How Starkville arrived there wasn''t how coach Greg Carter drew it up.
The Yellow Jackets extended a six-point halftime lead into a 56-39 win in the opening-round of the Class 6A, Division 2, District 4 tournament.
As comfortable as the final score makes the win appear, the Yellow Jackets had two starters leave the game due to injury.
Junior guard Jacolby Mobley landing awkwardly on his side and took a knock to the head after a layup attempt in the second quarter. He was helped off the court and didn''t return.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, junior center Gavin Ware collided with Columbus'' Sam Doughty and immediately went to the ground clutching his left knee.
Carter said Mobley had bruised ribs and Ware''s initial diagnosis was a bone bruise to his knee.
It wasn''t an ideal start to postseason play, Carter said.
"A game like that, you just want it to hurry up and end," Carter said. "Nothing good can come out of it. You''re up double digits with under two minutes to play, you just want it to end as quickly as possible."
Ware (game-high 16 points) had just scored back-to-back buckets before he went down. He was in the game because Starkville''s 45-27 lead with six minutes left had dwindled to a 12. Starkville High forward Calvin Hill had fouled out, forcing Carter to send Ware back into the game to help on the boards.
Both players are questionable for Friday''s match against Tupelo, which owns a two-point win and a one-point win against Starkville this season.
If Ware can''t go Friday, power forward Tory Rice could be the one to pick up the slack. The 6-foot-5 junior had 14 points and 14 rebounds Tuesday.
Though Carter wasn''t certain about Ware status for Friday, Rice seemed optimistic his front-line mate would be ready.
"At first, I just hoped he''d get back on his feet and feel better," Rice said. "But he''s a tough guy. He''ll bounce back."
Carter elected to trap in an attempt to force Columbus out of its methodical, pace-controlling tempo. As a result, Starkville (17-6) fought through foul trouble -- Hill fouled out and Ware finished with four -- for much of the game.
Columbus wasn''t able to take advantage of the extra opportunities at the free-throw line, going 8 of 28. The Falcons were 14 of 48 from the field.
"You can''t do those things and have a chance to win, though we did at certain points of the game," CHS coach Sammy Smith said. "You can take all that back, things would have been a little bit better."
Doughty led Columbus with nine points, while Deontae Jones had eight.
Smith was hoping for a performance similar to what he got when Columbus played Starkville in January, when the Falcons pushed the Yellow Jackets to overtime before losing.
That game was much like their loss Tuesday, as they''d chip away at Starkville''s lead but lacked the extra punch to get over the hump.
"It''s gonna take more maturity for us to get to that point," Smith said. "We got six freshmen, four sophomores, and two seniors. The best thing about a sophomore is he''s gonna be a junior. I think we''ll get back to that tradition of Columbus basketball with good attitude, good work ethic. I think we got all the foundation laid for that to happen."
Starkville hopes to rebound from two subpar performances against No. 1 seed Tupelo at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Yellow Jackets struggled shooting the ball in the first loss to the Golden Wave and missed free throws and a layup before Tupelo nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to claim a one-point win. The video of the final 10 seconds was featured on the Yahoo.com homepage.
"We gotta be able to make some shots and finish a game out," Carter said. "We''re in a position where we can win a championship."
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