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By DANNY P. SMITH
The Starkville Yellowjackets knew points were going to be hard to generate on Friday night.
Whenever they play against a Sammy Smith-coached Columbus basketball team, the Jackets know the prospects of a defensive game are very strong.
That was the case after the first quarter as Starkville was able to secure a 9-5 lead.
The Jackets began to seize control at that point and ended up playing the better defense in beating the Falcons from Lowndes County 56-24.
"We were a little slow out of the gates, but once we got going, we played pretty well," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "I thought we defended real well, especially the latter part of the first quarter through the second and we rebounded offensively and defensively."
Gavin Ware, the junior post player for the Jackets, was initially held down by the Falcons, only scoring four points in the first eight minutes.
He picked up his game in the final three quarters and finished with a game-high 14 points.
"They like to run that 2-3, then they switched to man-to-man and go back to the 2-3," Ware said of the Columbus defense. "We like to pick up the pace so we just had to stay patient and just figure out where we needed to be."
Behind the scoring of Deonte Jones, the Falcons were holding their own against the defending Class 6A state champions.
Jones scored all five of the points for Columbus as it only trailed Starkville by four points after the first quarter.
The Jackets scored 12 points in the second quarter with six coming from Ware, including a dunk with authority at the 5:09 mark, to take a 21-8 halftime advantage.
Starkville out-scored Columbus 18-5 to take control of the game.
Carter knew the value of every point the Jackets could get because of the reputation of the way the Falcons play defense under Smith.
"They don't have the talent they use to have, but they still defend and rebound," Carter said. "They are going to defend, rebound and take charges. There are certain things you know they are going to do."
Outside of Ware, no other SHS player scored in double figures. Steven Brand and Ravonte Gandy had seven points each.
After a loss to Meridian, the Jackets have won their last four games for a 5-1 overall record.
Gavin believes playing against a team like Gentry a week ago has helped prepare Starkville for Columbus.
"We had to work pretty hard because (Columbus) likes to double-team," Ware said. "Against Gentry, it was a little difficult to score because they like to run that little 2-3 zone. Once we slowed it down (against Columbus) and got where we needed to be and set screens, the points started coming."