Starkville High School senior Tabreea Gandy knows the look of a state championship team.
After all, she played on one last season.
With region tournament play beginning next week, Starkville is ready to fine-tune the game in hopes of bagging another Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A state championship.
“Now that we are getting ready for the playoffs, everybody is more focused,” Gandy said. “You work a little harder in practice. This the time of year where you need to be at your best. We are working hard to get to that point.”
Starkville (20-2) showed its capable of another run in Tuesday night’s 43-38 Region 3 win over No. 1 Murrah. It was the first loss of the year for the Lady Mustangs. It was also revenge for Starkville, which dropped a 51-42 decision to Murrah earlier in the season.
In the victory, Gandy had 14 points, eight rebounds, three steals and an assist. For this effort, the Itawamba Community College signee is being honored today as The Dispatch’s Prep Player of the Week.
“When you beat an undefeated team, it gives you entire team a big confidence boost,” Starkville coach Kristie Williams said. “We were down after losing the first one. In the second meeting, we played better and got a huge win. It showed what we are capable of doing when we dig in defensively for four quarters.”
Gandy is now beginning to see some similarities between last season’s squad and this year’s team.
“Our work ethic is the same,” Gandy said. “Everybody is committed and everybody is focused on the task at hand. I think we have grown up a lot throughout the season. There were some people doubting us, especially after we lost the first time (to Murrah). It was a huge win for us to get things back even with them. It showed that we are a capable team.”
Williams said the four seniors have helped push the team during its most recent stretch run.
“For the four seniors, this is their last time as Lady Jackets,” Williams said. “That means something. When you see the seniors working hard every day and leaving it all on the court, that rubs off on the other players. The younger players want to play like that. The seniors want to make the most of their last season. The younger players want to make sure the seniors go out on a high note.”
Gandy said the experience of playing in big state tournament games will help this team as the calendar gets deeper in February.
“Experience is really important, late in the year,” Gandy said. “It will help that we have played some big games. The regular season has helped get us ready for the playoffs. We have learned from the losses and gotten better from the wins. When the games get bigger, we want to show our fans we what we are made of. As seniors, your last time is special.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.