By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
By the time Starkville High School’s boys basketball team pulled even with top-ranked Class 3A team Midfield (Ala.), the Yellow Jackets had exhausted the extra juice used to chip away at a deficit that lasted more than three quarters.
SHS (9-2) trailed by as many as 12 points before tying the game at 53 just a minuted into the fourth quarter. But the Jackets went cold after holding a brief 56-55 lead and were outscored 16-0 over the next five minutes before falling 76-62 Saturday at the Joe Horne Classic at Columbus High School.
Midfield, armed with a stable of shooters and rangy perimeter players, knocked down nine 3-pointers and had four players finish with 10 points pr more.
Point guard Alvin Murry had a team-high three 3-pointers and 18 points. Arron Gaines had 20 for the Patriots.
The diverse skill sets of Gaines and Murry gave the Jackets trouble throughout the game, particularly Murry, who at 6-foot-5 often initiated sets from the top of the key. From there, he was free to play off screens to create his own shot and dish to teammates.
“It’s difficult to defend the 3-point shot and the drive against any team,” SHS coach Greg Carter said. “You have to know what each player is best at and who does what for them. It’s about understanding personnel.
“But [Midfield] showed why they’re No. 1 in the state (Alabama).”
But like any team that has quality jump shooters, the Patriots hit a hot streak and kept shooting. Midfield coach Darrell Barber said his team’s identity has been shaped by its perimeter shooting, through good and bad moments. There were a few dry spells Friday that allowed the Jackets to get back into the game.
The Jackets went to work inside through Dontavius Self, who scored a team-high 19. The forward hit 11-of-14 at the line.
Self said Midfield did a good job of playing help-defense and forcing the Jackets to kick the ball out for jumpers. While Starkville found success on the perimeter through Tyson Carter (11) and Richard Evans (12), it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Midfield.
“We made a heck of a run,” Carter said. “Sometimes, when you have some success shooting the ball it’s hard to pull it down. But we shot way too many jumpers. We made too many bad decisions, like not getting matched up right or making the pass to the open man.
“But we showed some heart, some fight.”
Starkville was originally slated to face Tuscaloosa Central, but both coaches were notified at 10 a.m. Saturday that Central wouldn’t make it and they’d face each other.
“This [Starkville] team plays harder than the team we faced last year at Mississippi State,” Barber said. “I have a lot of respect for this program; they’re kind of a mirror of ourselves.”