November 21, 2019 11:04:31 PM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School senior Forte Prater had to get his team going.
The No. 1 Yellow Jackets led 19-13 after the first quarter Thursday at home against Itawamba Agricultural. A respectable lead? Sure. But not enough for Starkville.
So, Prater decided to take charge.
After Starkville hit a 3-pointer to open the quarter and got a stop, Prater looked off an Indians defender and delivered a dime to big man Jacob Reese for an easy layup. The Jackets got another defensive stop, and Prater handed off the ball then quickly got it back for an open 3. Suddenly, Starkville had more than doubled up Itawamba on the scoreboard.
"I hit a couple shots and played defense," Prater said, perhaps understating the importance of his stellar stretch of play.
The 8-0 run to open the second became a 19-2 streak for Starkville, and the Jackets (5-1) coasted from there. They pulled away sharply to rout the Indians 86-37 in perhaps their best performance of the season.
"We finally played a complete game," Starkville assistant coach Ed Townsel said.
That huge second quarter, in which the Jackets outscored the Indians 28-9, capped a first half as good as Starkville could have hoped for -- not always the case so far this year.
"We'd been coming out slow," Prater said. "That was a big half for us."
Prater provided the spark early in the second quarter, but the team's scoring effort was quite balanced. Prater, Coltie Young and Keyvon Pearson tied for the team lead with 12 points each.
Trey Jackson scored 10 points, and Cameron Skinner had nine thanks to a strong passing performance for the Jackets.
"We don't usually pass the ball like that," he said.
In Saturday's game against Holmes Central, Townsel noted, the Jackets seemed a little unwilling to share the ball on the offensive end, but that wasn't the case Thursday.
"Tonight, we had no problem with being selfish," Townsel said.
Instead, Starkville avoided a letdown against the Indians and notched a big win.
"We wanted to come out and play as we usually play, try to get better, and they came out and did," Townsel said.
The Jackets will face Coffeeville on Saturday in the Okolona Tournament. The SHS Thanksgiving Classic set for Sunday was canceled.
Starkville girls 48, Itawamba Agricultural 13
The Starkville girls team swarmed Itawamba Agricultural on defense, refusing to allow the Indians a single made field goal in the first half and pulling away for a 48-13 victory.
"We just played hard, and we were fortunate enough to jam them up at times," Starkville head coach Kristie Williams said. "They did take some shots, and we were able to capitalize and get those defensive rebounds and they could only get a one-shot deal. It's that grind-type effort, and it paid off because when you're locked in like that, you can get good results."
The Yellow Jackets are 3-3 after the blowout of the Indians, who went 3-19 last year.
"With teams like that, we try our best to keep them in the lower numbers," junior guard Jada Odneal said.
Odneal was perhaps the biggest force for Starkville on defense, constantly creating pressure and racking up steal after steal.
"She's only doing what I knew she could do," Williams said. "To see her continue to get better and better is refreshing, and it's gonna help us as we go through this stretch of our season."
The Jackets pulled away early to take a 19-4 lead after the first quarter, allowing Williams to play a deep rotation and rest her starters -- a welcome development for Starkville.
"The games are gonna get tougher, the opponents are gonna get a lot tougher, and we've got to be ready to give our starting five a break, so that way in the second half we can close it out with them on the floor," Williams said.
But she still noted that there were things the Jackets could have improved that went largely unnoticed in the blowout win.
"I thought that we were still careless with the basketball," she said. "I thought that we made a lot of unforced errors. I want us to clean that up."
Junior guard Amaya Ford led Starkville with 11 points, and Odneal scored eight.
The Jackets' next game is Dec. 6 at home against Noxubee County.
Starkville Academy boys 48, Choctaw County 32
Starkville Academy 51, Choctaw County 43
Kirk Academy girls 39, Oak Hill Academy 29
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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