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By JOEL COLEMAN
It seems as though the sleeping giant has woken up.
In a season that has, at times, been marked by inconsistent play, the Starkville High boys basketball team won in dominating fashion for the second time in as many nights on Saturday, this time doubling up non-division rival West Point 90-45 at the Beehive.
"We've really taken all of our losses hard, so we just had to come out and play," said SHS guard Jacolby Mobley.
Mobley scored a game-high 22 points to pace the Yellowjackets, who improved to 16-6 overall.
Three other Starkville players scored in double-figures with Tori Rice scoring 14 points while both Gavin Ware and Calvin Young added 11.
Rice also hauled in 12 rebounds to notch a double-double.
"With the exception of our rebounding, because I thought (West Point) got off a few second shots that they shouldn't have, I thought we played a near-perfect game," said Starkville head coach Greg Carter.
Starkville's efforts resulted in a contest that was never even close.
West Point's Cortez Malone and Daryl Thomas each sank baskets shortly after the game's opening tip to help the Green Wave build themselves a brief 4-2 lead.
Shortly after, a Steven Brand three-pointer began a 14-0 Starkville run that gave the Jackets a 16-4 advantage.
West Point answered by scoring five of the next seven points to shorten the gap to 18-9, but the Green Wave never got closer as they fell to 10-10 overall this season.
"I really thought, defensively on their big kids, we did a much better job this time than we did the first time we played them this year," said West Point head coach Brad Cox. "Of course, (Mobley) still hurt us like he did the first time.
"Offensively, I think we were a little intimidated with their big guys as far as trying to take the ball at them. That's really where it kind of snowballed on us. We got a little timid taking the ball to the rim."
The Jackets never slacked up. Behind the play of Mobley, Starkville expanded its lead to 45-20 by halftime.
Mobley keyed the Jackets' huge first half, scoring 14 points over the course of the first two periods and 10 points in the second quarter alone.
Starkville's athletic point guard put an exclamation point on his big game in the final 60 seconds before the intermission, slamming home a dunk on a fastbreak opportunity and drilling a long-range three pointer the very next trip down the floor.
"I tried to do good, but I try to get my teammates involved too," said Mobley. "It's a team effort out there so I'm just trying to get us better so we can win state again."
Aside from being Starkville's Saturday night spark plug, Mobley also caught the eye of his coach.
"(Mobley) did a little bit of everything," said Carter. "He passed it. He got assists. He rebounded. He was real good."
Mobley added eight more points in the third quarter as Starkville continued to pull away.
Even as Carter turned to his bench to wrap up the night's action, the Jackets kept the pressure on the Green Wave.
"Everybody that played, played with a high intensity level," said Carter. "Everybody was focused on getting the job done. The fact that we had a big lead didn't change that. Sometimes in that situation, teams tend to relax. We didn't. We finished the game."
Cox also gave several of his reserves playing time in the game's final quarter in an effort to build West Point's depth to the level that he sees on the Starkville bench.
"They've got kids who hit the boards hard and they've got several ball handlers," said Cox. "They all just get up and down the floor very well."
Starkville's win over West Point comes on the heels of Friday's 54-35 road win over South Panola that locked up the No. 2 seed of the upcoming Class 6A, Region 2 Tournament.
Carter says he's been impressed by the way the Jackets have played over the last week with tourney time nearing.
"Since the overtime of the Columbus game (on Monday), I think this is the best stretch we've played all year," said Carter.
The Jackets will get their next chance to prepare for the postseason on Tuesday when they host West Oktibbeha.
Despite the fact that Starkville is the defending Class 6A champions, Carter indicated that Tuesday's game against the Class A Timberwolves won't be viewed as a big school versus little school matchup.
"That's a game everybody in Oktibbeha County is looking forward to right now," said Carter. "It's an important game for us because it's the next game on the schedule. People all over the county have been looking forward to this game since they saw it on the schedule. It's going to be a big night for a lot of people."
Tuesday's game will tip off immediately following a 6 p.m. girls game.
The evening will also feature Starkville's Senior Night festivities.
"We look at it like we're playing an in-county school, so it's a rival game," said Carter.
West Point 69,
Starkville's sluggish season continued Saturday with a home loss to non-division rival West Point.
The Green Wave, who improved to 17-3, was led in scoring by a 29-point effort from senior guard Kelsey Ewings.
SHS head coach Kristie Williams said trying to defend the talented Ewings was quite a challenging task.
"You have to send multiple defenders and continually change out who guards her because she does a great job of handling the basketball," said Williams. "If you try to come at her too hard, she'll blow right past you. She does a great job and that's why she's one of the best point guards in the state."
West Point's Nekeisha Walker also scored in double figures, tallying 16 points.
Starkville, who fell to 5-17 overall, was led in scoring by Courtney Moore and Brittany Brown.
Both Moore and Brown poured in 14 points apiece in the loss.
Moore just missed a double-double, as she snatched nine rebounds for the Lady Jackets.
West Point held control of the game all night, taking a 14-11 lead after the first quarter and expanding it to 33-16 by halftime.
The Green Wave outscored the Lady Jackets 36-31 over the final two quarters to cruise to the win.
Starkville will look to rebound from the defeat on Tuesday as they host West Oktibbeha at 6 p.m.
Williams knows it would be an uplifting win if her struggling club could down the Lady Timberwolves on Senior Night.
"We understand all the variables that it takes to win a game," said Williams. "We just have to continue to put those together. I keep trying to lift up the team's spirits and lift up my own at the same time. In the grand scheme of things, we are preparing these girls to become ladies someday. It goes deeper than basketball.
"Although our record is on the losing side this year, I think they've learned so much that they can carry with them throughout life."