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COLUMBUS â€“ Starkville High School girls basketball coach Kristie Williams definitely has a reason to see her blood pressure rise.
After several close losses for her Lady Yellowjackets, it has caused some tense moments late in games.
Starkville dropped two one-point losses to Canton 52-51 on Tuesday and to Lawrence County 66-65 on Friday at the Joe Horne Christmas Classic in Columbus.
On Saturday at the event, the Lady Jackets came up short once against to the New Albany Lady Bulldogs 45-42.
"We're taking our bumps and bruises, but if you look at the opponents we've played, we haven't played just easy opponents," Williams said. "Our schedule is tough for a reason because this time of the year is where you want to grow and get better for the second half of our season.
"Out of the 12 games we've played, we wanted to win more than six, but we are halfway to our goal of getting better."
With the latest loss, the Lady Jackets saw their record slip to 6-6.
Williams believes that the tough losses SHS is experiencing will benefit the squad later in the season.
"The payoff is what we're looking for," Williams said. "We're looking to get better and better each game and we have. We've gotten a lot better from where we were to where we are now."
New Albany built a 12-point lead at 32-20 with 5:32 remaining in the third quarter after a basket by Dandy Dozen player Jasmine Spears.
After a basket by Janay Townsel, Starkville was able to cut the margin to 35-30 at the 3-minute mark of the third quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs pushed their advantage back out to 11 points (42-31) with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Jackets made one final push to close the gap to 43-42 as Imane Montgomery scored with 13 seconds remaining in the contest.
Spears hit a pair of free throws for New Albany, then Starkville had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but a shot by Jacqueline Fair fell off the mark.
Brittany Brown led the Lady Jackets with 16 points, while Townsel added 10 points.
Spears was the game-high scorer as she put up 24 points for the Lady Bulldogs. She scored 22 of those points in the first three quarters.
Williams felt like her team made Spears work for her production.
"The job of a Dandy Dozen player is to get out, create and do everything she can," Williams said. "We just weren't able to defend her in the first half as well as I thought we should have, but she is a great player. The points she got, most of them she did have to earn. They weren't easy shots. The shots she did take weren't easy shots, but when you are a great player, shots like that are going to fall."
The shots weren't falling for the Lady Jackets from the free-throw line as they only hit 4-of-15.
Williams knows the game could have turned out different if those points could have gone up on the scoreboard.
"You win the game if you get those points so it continues to be the little things," Williams said. "Once all of those little things come together, I think it will be a better side for the Lady Jackets and our record. We have two more games to close out 2011 and hopefully we'll go out and win those."
Starkville plays at the Magic City Showdown in Holly Springs against MAGA, Tenn., Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and Forrest County, Ga., Friday at 4:30 p.m.