STARKVILLE — Starkville High School girls’ basketball coach Kristie Williams knew as the season grew longer, and the opposition got better, senior center Kirsten Thompson would play a critical role on her team.
“To win the really big games, you have to have good post play,” Williams said. “When you get to the end of the season, you are going to play teams with a little bit of everything. Your job is also to be a complete team yourself. Post play is really vital. We knew her time was coming to come up big.”
Thompson has helped lead Starkville back to the Mississippi Coliseum and the semifinal round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A state tournament.
Starkville (26-2) faces Pearl (30-2) at 4 p.m. Wednesday with a berth in the state championship on the line.
“Everybody is excited because this what you play your entire season for,” Thompson said. “We have been going to Jackson every year since I have been here, so we automatically set bigger goals. We want be in the final game and we want to win a championship.”
Thompson scored 11 points and added eight rebounds in Starkville’s 56-43 win over St. Martin Saturday in the quarterfinal round.
For her efforts, Thompson is being honored today as The Dispatch’s Prep Player of the Week.
While the points and rebounds helped the team win, Williams sang the praises of Thompson on the defensive end.
Standing 6-foot-3, Thompson guarded St. Martin’s 6-foot-5 Daphane White, a Mississippi State signee. White finished with 22 points but it was a struggle.
“The job Kirsten did on the defensive end won us the ballgame,” Williams said. “A premier player is going to get their points. Still, I thought we took them out of a lot of things they wanted to do. That is a credit to Kirsten and her play down low.”
Thompson said it does not take long to figure out what makes Williams happy on the basketball floor.
“You are going to have to play incredible, hard-nosed defense,” Thompson said. “She wants a relentless effort on the defensive end. That is what separates us from other teams. I knew that we were going to play some really good teams before winning a championship. Everybody is working hard and accepting the challenge. That is what this program is all about. Even last year, we kept winning game after game, and (Williams) kept pushing us to be even better.”
Kelsey Jones anchored the center position for four seasons for the Lady Jackets. Jones was the only player lost off last season’s Class 6A state championship team.
Thompson learned from here and was ready to take over when this season began.
“I just want to go out there and do my part,” Thompson said. “When you play on a good team, your points and rebound are going to come. My job is to impact the other team and to slow them down on offense. If I do that then I have done my job.”
While Tabreea Gandy and Jariyah Covington will lead the team in scoring on most nights, Williams likes Thompson’s ability to impact the game on different levels.
“Kirsten is going to give you a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Williams said. “A true championship team has no weak links. They have players who are going to hustle, play hard and impact the game in different ways. She does just that. Honestly, she gives us exactly what we need.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.