JACKSON — The Class 5A North State boys basketball championship trophy will stay in Jackson in 2012.
Even without its leading scorer Malik Newman, the Callaway High School boys basketball team used an emphatic second-half run to beat Starkville 59-48 just 10 days before both teams head to the state finals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Newman, a freshman guard who is averaging 23.7 points per game this season, was suffering from severe flu-like symptoms and considered not taking a flu shot before the game so he could play. But after clinching a berth in the state semifinals Friday with a victory against victory Canton, Callaway coach Wayne Brent advised against playing the 6-foot-2 perimeter threat.
“We challenged our guys with Malik Newman because last time we played them they beat us really bad and physically whooped us,” Brent said. “This is huge for a confidence factor. I told Malik and his dad that we needed to see if my team will fight without you.”
Starkville, which defeated Callaway 70-58 on Nov. 26, got its offense going early, as senior guard Jacolby Mobley hit 3-pointers from at least three to four feet behind the arc. At one point in the second quarter, Mobley had sparked a 15-0 run and Callaway was outscoring him by one before Brent called a timeout with his team trailing 26-14. Mobley had 16 points before halftime.
During the timeout, Brent used a triangle-and-two principle with the longer guard Dontarrius Simmons face-guarding Mobley and a rotating number of post players attacking senior center Gavin Ware.
“It actually started in the second quarter because we didn’t finish with any momentum there and it spread to the rest of the game,” Starkville coach Greg Carter said. “There was no secret to what the game plan was. Face-guard Jacoby and Gavin and make the rest of the team beat them. We couldn’t do it.”
Mobley had just five second-half points and led all scorers with 21, while Ware, a Mississippi State University signee for the 2012 recruiting class, had 15 points.
After Brent’s strategic decision, Callaway scored seven of the last 10 points of the first half to take the momentum into the locker room.
By the beginning of the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Dontelius Ross gave the Chargers its first lead since an early 3-2 advantage in the first quarter. Starkville’s lack of shooting, whether it was the Brand brothers, Mike and Steve, not making wide-open 3-pointers or nearly the entire squad shooting close to 50 percent from the free-throw line, played key roles in the loss.
“We were just flat in our energy level tonight and maybe that contributed to us missing some many open shots,” Carter said. “The difference from now to the first time we played them is simple: Last time we made shots.”
Once Callaway took the lead, the advantage of playing at Forest Hill High in Jackson took over and the Chargers outscored the Yellow Jackets 19-9 the rest of the way.
“The message on the white board before the game was, ‘Will each of you fight without Malik?” Brent said. “Tonight they proved they can and they will.”
Senior Terron Gilmore led Callaway with 17 points. The 6-foot-7 forward is signed to play next season at nationally ranked Murray State University.
With the loss, Starkville will play South Half champion Wayne County at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Class 5A state tournament, while Callaway will face Jackson Provine at 2:30 p.m. the same day.
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