Starkville High School’s Jordan Temple goes up for a layup against Tupelo on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
December 28, 2017 10:40:55 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School senior guard Blake Rogers is playing with a higher level of confidence.
"A year ago, we were a very young basketball team, especially at the guard spots," Rogers said. "We were trying to learn the game ourselves. It's hard to instruct the other players and to get everybody going together as one when you are trying to learn the game yourself. This year, it's different.
"There is a lot of confidence in our abilities and we know what we are supposed to do on the court. It makes for a better chance at winning."
The veteran guard's play was strong Wednesday as Starkville routed Tupelo 63-41 on the final day of the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at the Hump at Mississippi State's Humphrey Coliseum.
Rogers scored 14 points and had seven assists. Over the years, Starkville and Tupelo have formed a rivalry with intense games that have impacted the Class 6A state championship race.
There was no such drama Wednesday as Starkville used a 10-0 run late in the first quarter to provide a comfortable lead.
"I really like where we are," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "We made shots today. When we make shots, we will usually win. Our offensive IQ is very good. My teams are always going to rebound and defend. You do those or you don't play, so when we have the offensive success like we had today, we will have a chance."
Starkville (10-3) earned its second rout of Tupelo. It also has split two games against Class 6A power Columbus. Overall, the three losses are by a combined nine points, and all of them came before the Starkville High football players returned to the court after helping the football team advance to the Class 6A State title game Dec. 1 in Oxford.
"We feel good about the potential of this team," Rogers said. "Each day in practice, it is all about defending and rebounding. On offense, there is good balance. There is no superstar scorer. Coach sometimes has to encourage some of us to shoot."
Carter was most impressed by his team's offensive patience. The Yellow Jackets shot 55 percent from the field but remained patient despite more than one player having a hot hand.
"The most pleasing aspect was the number of times we had the extra pass," Carter said. "I think we scored on every possession where we had at least four passes. A couple of times it may have been a putback, but we still found a way to score the basketball."
Junior Atavius Jones had his second double-double in the tournament with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Jones came in off the bench for a second-straight day and grabbed six rebounds in a second-quarter stretch in which Starkville scored six-straight points to build a 17-point lead.
"Both games in this tournament we had some good communication," Carter said, referring to his team's 79-50 victory against Center Hill on Tuesday. "The senior guards are taking over this team. They play with a lot of confidence and they lead. Each player is not afraid to step up and communicate. It may be encouraging a teammate or telling them what to do.
"We don't have as much size as we had last year, but we have some speed. Defensively, we have played well the whole season. If we can continue to have some success on offense, we will be in a position to do something special at the end of the season."
A 3-pointer by Jamarrion Brown got Starkville off on the right foot. Donte Powers and Rogers followed with treys. Overall, Starkville hit 11 3-pointers as team.
"When the shots start falling, basketball can be fun," Rogers said. "You saw a lot of smiles today. We were having fun and doing the things we are capable of doing."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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