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By JOEL COLEMAN
In Starkville High coach Greg Carter's mind, his team was able to pull out a win over Aberdeen Tuesday night mainly because they pulled down the boards.
Tory Rice hauled in 14 rebounds, Steven Brand tallied 11, and Jacolby Mobley scored a team-high 18 points as the Yellowjackets pulled away in the second half to defeat the Bulldogs 67-45 at the Beehive.
"(Mobley) just tells me all the time that I've just got one rebound so that makes me go for more and more," said Rice. "You've just got to be fearless and go strong."
Rice and Brand's dominance under the rim sparked Starkville, who led just 30-27 at the half.
The duo's rebounding skills helped the Jackets rip off a 13-0 run to start the third quarter to set the tone for a second half that saw Starkville outscore Aberdeen 37-18.
"(Carter) told us at halftime to just come out and play hard," said Mobley. "In the first half, we weren't as active on defense as we were in the second half. We really picked that up in the second half."
Carter indicated that Starkville's first half struggles was caused by Aberdeen's speed in getting to the basketball.
"(Aberdeen) was quicker to the ball than us and when they got them, it always ended up in something bad for us," said Carter. "They would score, or we would foul them. But in the second half, we were quicker than them to those balls and it led to fast break opportunities. Once we got out in transition, we got in rhythm offensively.
A big part of Starkville finding its stride was the play of Rice and Brand and their combined 25 rebounds.
"That's pretty good on the boards with the two forwards," said Carter. "That's not even counting the center. To be a good rebounding team, you have to have really good rebounding forwards. When you do that on the high school level, you can dominate boards on people."
Mobley says the rebounding, particularly the offensive boards, granted new life to the Jackets offense time and time again.
"It just made us focus a lot better because (Aberdeen) isn't coming down and scoring," said Mobley. "We get the ball back, we can throw an (alley-oop) to Gavin (Ware) or something like that to make the crowd go wild."
For the first two quarters, Starkville fans didn't have too much to cheer about.
After the Jackets pulled ahead to a 19-12 advantage after the first quarter, Aberdeen outscored SHS 15-11 in the second period to gain new life.
Still, according to Carter, the Jackets felt confident heading to the second half.
"We knew we missed some opportunities," said Carter. "There really wasn't any head-hanging."
The positive attitude was evident as the Jackets pulled away in the third and fourth quarters, ultimately dropping Aberdeen to 4-2 for the season.
Starkville improved to 6-1.
"That's a pretty good team," said Carter of Aberdeen. "That team is going to have a chance to win a championship in Class 3A. They have the size of a Class 6A team."
Starkville returns to action on Friday when they host Grenada immediately following a 6 p.m. girls game.
For a little more than a quarter on Tuesday, the Aberdeen and Starkville girls basketball teams went blow-for-blow.
Ultimately, the Lady Yellowjackets' good, old-fashioned hustle made the difference.
Starkville used a 17-5 first half-closing run to break open a close game on the way to defeating Aberdeen at the Beehive.
"These last seven games, it has been a constant battle with our hustle," said Starkville head coach Kristie Williams, whose team improved to 2-5. "For some reason, the lights finally went on."
Aberdeen fell to 2-4 with the loss.
SHS and Aberdeen ended the first quarter tied at 11, but the Lady Jackets outscored the Lady Bulldogs 21-8 in the second quarter, largely behind 16 of Brittany Brown's game-high 24 total points.
"We didn't let that momentum stop," said Williams. "We carried it over to the second half and actually played a full game. I was proud of the effort."
Courtney Moore, who sat out Starkville's last game due to personal reasons, returned to the court Tuesday with a 14-point performance.
Also aiding the Lady Jackets' cause was Chelsey Johnson-Weaver's team-high 12 rebounds, three more than Brown's nine boards.
Williams was highly impressed with the play of Brown, Moore and Johnson-Weaver.
"For (Brown), it was one of those moments as a coach where you think 'finally,'" said Williams. "We know she can do big things for us. (Moore's) presence was definitely felt by Aberdeen. She's just a force to be reckoned with. (Johnson-Weaver) kept us in the game. I was very proud of her effort as a senior."
Behind Brown, Moore and Johnson-Weaver, Starkville notched its first home win this season.
"It's just like a deep sigh that you take when something finally happens," said Williams. "I'm hoping the win will be our motivation for Friday night."
The Lady Jackets host Grenada Friday at 6 p.m.