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By DANNY P. SMITH
The Starkville Yellowjackets have been pretty good this season in dealing with must-win situations.
In the first round of the Class 6A, Division 2 Tournament, Starkville defeated Columbus in an elimination game, then the Jackets went on the road Tuesday night to knock off DeSoto Central 66-55 in a "win or go home" contest in the first round of the Class 6A North Tournament.
Starkville tries to extend its season once again as the North State Tournament continues tonight in Vicksburg. If the Jackets can defeat Jackson Murrah at 6 p.m., they will punch a ticket to the Class 6A State Tournament.
When it comes to having its backs against the wall, SHS boys coach Greg Carter has watched his team respond positively, but understands it may not always work out that way.
"You can also go into those situations and play a little tight," Carter said. "We started the game at DeSoto Central a little bit tight, made mistakes early and got down early. It didn't take us long to loosen up and start playing. We don't need to do that in this game. We need to come out executing and finishing the way we need to."
With the win against the Jaguars, the Jackets improved their overall record to 18-7, but not before falling behind 19-10 in the first half.
Starkville caught its stride and outscored DeSoto Central 23-10 in the third quarter.
Carter saw improvement from his squad in the area of finishing around the basket, but would still like to see it hit more free throws.
"We didn't hit free throws as well as we should have, but we did make shots," Carter said. "We drove to the basket, got into the lane and made some shots."
The Jackets are going to have to continue that kind of play when it comes to the "guard strong" Jackson Murrah team.
Carter said the Mustangs have four guards with good skills.
"Those guys an play off the dribble and shoot the three," Carter said. "They do the bulk of their scoring and handle the ball for them. They depend handily on them. (Murrah's) guards are a little quicker and more athletic off the dribble than DeSoto's guards.
"We've done well against teams like that and we've done well against big teams. The thing about a team like that is they can score a lot of points in a short amount of time so we've got to keep going on those type of runs."
Starkville received a shot in the arm against DeSoto Central with the return of Jacolby Mobley. Mobley, who had missed two games with bruised ribs, poured in 30 points in Tuesday's victory.
The status of post player Gavin Ware remains day-to-day for the Jackets. Ware suffered a bruised knee one week ago against Tupelo.
Carter said there's still a possibility Ware can get back to contribute this season, but the Jackets need to keep winning to improve those chances.
"It's just like all of the other games where if we can make a few baskets, don't turn it over, defend and rebound a little bit, we'll have a chance to win it," Carter said. "If we win this game, it will put you in the state tournament, then Saturday will determine if you are a No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed."