December 9, 2017 11:01:31 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School boys basketball team had been in the same situation before -- against the same opponent.
Entering its game against Columbus on Saturday night. Starkville already has a four-point loss to Meridian, a two-point loss to Columbus, and a five-point loss to Okolona on its resume. The difference Saturday night was the Yellow Jackets learned from the first three losses.
As Columbus rallied in the fourth quarter, Starkville did what it hadn't done in the past by displaying toughness to hold off Columbus for a 58-53 win in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) non-district game.
"We got rattled early tonight and made some terrible decisions, but we were a little tougher than we were the last time we played them," said Starkville coach Greg Carter, referencing the 64-62 loss to Columbus on Nov. 14. "We made enough plays defensively to win it.
"When we played them the first time, we gave up way too many easy baskets. We gave up a few tonight, but for the most part I think we did a good job of making them work for it."
Antavious Jones played a key role in making the Falcons work. Jones was in his first basketball game of the season after playing with the Starkville High football team's in its run to the Class 6A State championship game. He was welcomed to the court with one of the toughest matchups he will face all season: Robert Woodard, the 6-foot-6 forward who has signed to play basketball at Mississippi State.
Woodard dominated the first half with a flurry of blocks. He also made two pivotal jumpers down the stretch, but Jones responded with two key baskets to keep the Falcons at a distance.
"I thought (Jones) played pretty well in there for that being his first game," Carter said. "Quality finishes, got some rebounds and when he got his hands on a ball he brought it in. I thought he played real well."
The first of Jones' critical baskets came with roughly four minutes remaining. After Columbus (5-3) cut a nine-point third-quarter deficit to four, Jones made a layup to extend the lead to six. After the Falcons cut into the lead with a little more than a minute to go, Jones struck again with a layup off of a spin. Columbus then resorted to intentional fouls moments later.
In addition to Jones, guard Blake Rogers made three 3-pointers in the third quarter to build the nine-point advantage. Jones ended the game with eight points, while Rogers led the Yellow Jackets (6-3) with 18. Donte Powers added 11, including seven from the free-throw line. Four were in the fourth quarter.
Woodard had a game-high 20 points. Denijay Harris added 16.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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