The Starkville 9th grade Yellowjackets were down by one point with 2:13 left in Saturday's championship game of the Golden Triangle Conference Tournament finals at the Starkville High School gymnasium.
With the calmness that they've played with all season, according to head coach Tony Minor, the Jackets out-scored Tupelo 5-2 in the final 2 minutes and won a 51-49 decision to take the first-place trophy.
"Down the stretch, we knew we had to make plays and we had some guys make some defensive plays at the end and we came out on top," Minor said.
It was the second championship for Starkville teams as the Armstrong 7th-8th grade Lady Jackets also claimed the prize with a 30-23 victory against West Point.
Minor said the titles are something that should make the city of Starkville proud.
"We had three teams from Starkville playing in the finals and two came away with victories," Minor said. "That says a lot about the athletes here in Starkville. We have a lot of talent here, good coaching staffs and good administration so that's why we came out on top."
In the 9th grade boys game, the Jackets were slow out of the gates and trailed 5-4 after the first quarter.
Caleb Wilson heated up in the second quarter to score 14 of his game-high 28 points to help Starkville gain a 20-19 advantage at halftime.
"Caleb plays on a different level and once he gets going, he's hard to stop," Minor said. "With a kid like that, you just let him go and watch him play."
The two teams battled back and forth throughout the second half with neither having more than a five-point lead at any point of the final 14 minutes.
After Tupelo took a 47-46 lead at the 2:13 mark of the fourth quarter, Jarrod Williams and Wilson hit a pair of free throws each to put Starkville up 50-47 with 1:08 to play.
The Golden Wave hit a basket to get within 50-49, but Raphael Leonard hit a free throw with 12 seconds left in the game to complete the scoring.
Alex Norwood attempted a 3-pointer at the end, but the shot fell off the mark.
Minor said some of his players "had butterflies" because of the importance of the championship game, but was glad with the way they settled down and took care of business.
"During the whole course of the season, we worked on free throws and we know those win games along with defense," Minor said. "It was a team effort and we play a lot of basketball during the summer and it paid off."
Along with Wilson's scoring, Derion Ford was also in double digits with 11 points.
7th-8th Girls Game
West Point 23
The Lady Jackets battled back from an 11-10 halftime deficit to take the victory.
"Defense and rebounding," Armstrong coach Sam Bryant said were keys in the comeback. "We stepped up our game, they played hard and played to win. West Point is a quality ballclub and we had to raise our play to win it."
Eryka Williams had 15 points to lead the Lady Jackets, while April Reese was next in the scoring column with seven points.
Armstrong improved its record to 10-5 and even though Bryant felt his squad could have played better at times this season, it came through big when it mattered.
"As the season progressed, they got better and learned the things they had to do," Bryant said. "That was a big positive for them. I was proud."
7th-8th Boys Game
Arthur Brown, Tyson Carter and Tavarest Gray had seven points each for the 7th-8th grade Jackets, but it was not enough to overcome the strong showing by the Falcons.View more articles in: