By JOEL COLEMAN
COLUMBUS â€“ A dozen games into the season, the Starkville Yellowjackets finally hit a speed bump.
Facing Provine on Friday night at Columbus High School's Joe Horne Christmas Classic, SHS took its first loss of the season 80-76.
"For whatever reason, we started the game out a step slow," said Starkville head coach Greg Carter. "Maybe we didn't respect Provine as much as we needed to, but with the tradition of that program, you have to."
With the loss, Starkville fell to 11-1 overall.
Provine, who improved to 6-6, ended a six-game losing streak by topping a Starkville team that hadn't tasted defeat since falling to Meridian in the semifinals of last season's state tournament.
"What a way to end (our losing streak)," said Provine head coach Otis Gaines. "Coming in as a new coach with these guys, they had to adjust to me and I had to adjust to them, so it has just been a growing process for all of us."
The Rams seemed to take the next step of their growth throughout Friday's contest
as Provine went back and forth with Starkville like a pair of heavyweight fighters.
In the first half alone, there were five ties and 11 lead changes as the Jackets took a 37-36 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Starkville stretched its lead to 51-43 and was seemingly on its way to yet another win.
That's when Provine ripped off a game-altering 14-0 run that extended into the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
"It's called mental toughness," said Gaines of the comeback. "We practice that and teach it all day in practice and try to carry it over into games."
Six of the Rams' 14 points in their scoring frenzy came courtesy of free throws, one of the game's key factors according to Carter.
"We had a little run to start the second half, but then we fouled (Provine) a bunch and put them on the line a lot," said Carter. "They also got the ball in the paint all night long. They'd beat us down the floor and get it in the paint."
Provine used a group effort to pull off the upset.
Courtney Shannon led the Rams with 20 points while four other Provine players reached double figures in the scoring column.
Joc Johnson, Marcus Hogan and Roger Woods each scored 14 points while Donte Robinson added 13 for the Rams.
"We knew they had a lot of guys that could play," said Carter. "And they all stepped up and played well. They played like it was a big game and we didn't."
Starkville was led in scoring by Jacolby Mobley's 23 points.
Steven Brand added 20 for the Jackets, while Gavin Ware scored 18.
Despite those efforts, Starkville couldn't avoid suffering its first blemish of the campaign.
Carter doesn't necessarily see Friday night's defeat as a total waste however.
"I think this is going to be a good experience for us," said Carter. "It's going to be a learning experience."
Lawrence County 66,
The Lady Jackets couldn't make a halftime lead stand up as they lost another tough decision.
"We had too many turnovers down the stretch and had too many mental errors," SHS girls coach Kristie Williams said. "We were up 32-28 at the half, but we just didn't have enough at the end. We've got to get more consistent guard play."
Brittany Brown had a double-double for the Lady Jackets with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Tiffany Henderson added in 11 points and Sheneka Townsel chipped in 10 points.
Starkville, which fell to 6-5, take on New Albany today in the tournament at 1 p.m.