Smith on Sports: Area very successful once again on the court

Danny P. Smith
Staff Writer

It didn’t get much better for the game of basketball for the area this past season, especially if you are a fan of the women’s game.

In high school, the Starkville High School Lady Jackets claimed the fifth state championship in school history, while the Mississippi State Bulldogs reached the Women’s NCAA National Championship game for the second consecutive season.

There is no doubt that coaches Kristie Williams of SHS and Vic Schaefer of MSU have their programs exactly where they want it to be.

Coach Ben Howland saw saw significant improvement also with his Bulldogs and advanced all of the way to the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament. Other high school teams on the boys and girls side had some good moments on the court.

With the announcement of our All-Area Boys High School Team in today’s Starkville Daily News, we put the bow on another highly successful basketball season.

Congratulations go out to coaches and players of the year for the Jackets in Williams, Jariyah Covington and Tabreea Gandy on the girls side and coach Greg Carter and Blake Rogers for the boys.

Once again Williams and Carter proved their worth to the SHS nation by helping their teams to a familiar destination at the Big House (a.k.a. Mississippi Coliseum) in Jackson for the Class 6A State Tournament.

Even though Carter’s Jackets fell just short of their goal of winning the state title, it was an outstanding accomplishment for Starkville to reach the semifinals of the state tournament where it lost to a very good and eventual champion Columbus squad.

It doesn’t seem to matter who Carter loses off of a previous team, whether it’s two or three talented guards or a valuable member of the post, he always seems to get the Jackets to regroup and get the most out of his players every single year.

It was also a historical season for Choctaw County basketball. Both the boys and girls teams reached Jackson for the state tournament for the first time. Coach Gary Beals and Cory Guyton did a very good job with their boys and girls teams in Ackerman.

If you didn’t get a chance to see Akeem Kirkwood play for the Chargers last season, then you missed quite a treat. He was very difficult to defend in the post and often made a statement with one of his emphatic slam dunks.

Starkville’s Rogers was very deserving of the SDN Player of the Year, but Kirkwood was considered a very close second. Rogers and Kirkwood were two different kind of players, but both were very good at what they did.

When it came to picking player of the year, Rogers had a little bit better season in scoring and took the Jackets a step further in the playoffs than Kirkwood did with the Chargers. Rogers averaged 18 points per game, while Kirkwood had 17.1.

There is no denying that Kirkwood was special at Choctaw County and the sharp-shooting Rogers was something to see when he got hot from 3-point territory. They would definitely have been a nice one-two punch if they had played together on the same team. They should be very good additions to their junior college teams later this year.

The careers of Rogers and Kirkwood should continue to blossom and it won’t be long before another season on the hardwood comes around for them with all of the dunks and long-range shots that come with it.

Danny P. Smith is the sports editor and columnist for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SDN or its staff.