The Starkville High Lady Yellowjackets showed Neshoba Central the sting of defeat Tuesday night.
The Lady Rockets fell 69-48 to give the Lady Jackets a win in their first division game.
“This was our first district game and we knew coming in that Neshoba was going to be a tough team because they always come out playing hard and we didn’t think (Tuesday) would be any different,” Lady Yellowjackets coach Kristie Williams said. “We did want to set the tone in our district by picking up our first win, especially with it being a home game. I think our effort from start to finish was really good. Our girls played with a lot of heart and determination. They wanted that victory and we came out on top.”
It was clear from the moment of tip that Starkville was ready to play. In the first period alone, the Lady Jackets outscored the Lady Rockets by 10 to make it 18-8 after one.
The second period was much like the first as the Lady Jackets continued to dominate the scoring category. As the two teams headed to the locker rooms, Starkville enjoyed a 39-16 lead.
The second half proved to be more fruitful for Neshoba Central as it began to break away at the Starkville lead which ultimately would prove to be unsuccessful.
Blair Schaefer came out of the locker room on fire as she sank a 2-point jumper and a 3-pointer from the wing to start the second half for the Lady Jackets.
As the third period progressed, the two teams appeared to be more evenly matched with both teams posting 19 points. As action wrapped after three quarters, Starkville led by a score of 58-35.
The final period of play saw the Lady Rockets enjoy their highest scoring period thus far as they outscored the Lady Jackets 14-11. The late resurgence of Neshoba Central came too late as Starkville maintained its lead.
Imane Montgomery led the Lady Jackets with 25 points and contributed 12 rebounds. Schaefer followed Montgomery in the scoring category as she picked up 18 points and nine assists. Rounding out the Starkville top three was Kelsey Reed who had 10 points for the night.
Montgomery is certainly a leader on the team and after her outing on Tuesday, it is no wonder that her teammates call her “money in the bank.”
“Imane is a beast and when she decides to really let her game play out she will be dominate on both ends of the floor,” Williams said. “She is the type wherever the ball is, she will gravitate towards the ball and she is ready to shoot it. Her name is Imane and we call her money in the bank, so typically when she gets the ball, we are looking for her to score.”
Williams knows that win like Tuesday night is valuable as her team heads forward into the heart of the season.
“It helps sets the tone and gives us the confidence to know we got the first one,” Williams said. “Now we can go on the road or even back home and know we can battle with whoever our opponent is. We have a team of players that are willing to step up and play together to get the job done.”
The Lady Jackets, who improved to 4-2, face the Northeast Jones Tigers next on Saturday.
Neshoba Central 44
To open district play, the Yellowjackets took a different approach at the Beehive.
“(Tuesday night) we slowed down,” SHS boys coach Greg Carter said. “When it was there, we ran, but we didn’t rush and there is a big difference. We are showing signs of improvement and we got to keep moving forward.”
To open action, the Yellowjackets went on a 6-0 scoring run. The scoring dominance continued the rest of the period as Starkville outscored its opponent 12-6.
The Jackets continued the offensive presence into the second period of play as they more than doubled the Rockets score. Richard Evans highlighted the period as he sent the Jackets to the locker room on an 8-0 run by hitting two consecutive 3-pointers and a 2-point jumper to make it 37-18 at the half.
Neshoba Central picked up its scoring in the third period as they posted 21 points, but the Jackets stilled managed to edge the Rockets in the scoring category posting 23 to make it 60-39 with one final period to play.
As the fourth period progressed, it became clear that Neshoba Central was running out of gas and that the Jackets were too much to handle on both ends of the court. While the Starkville offense managed to score 13, defensively, it held the Rockets to only five points to close the period and secure a 73-44 victory.
“We talked a lot about defense the last couple of days,” Carter said. “We pressed them and sped it up and they turned it over a lot. They have a difficult offense to guard with a lot of cuts and screening action and we guarded it pretty well. Offensively, we knew they were zone and we prepared for it. We found the open spot and made the shots (Tuesday) tonight.”
For the night, Starkville posted four players in double digits and one player just on the cusp. Evans led the offensive movement for the Jackets with 16, followed by the trio of Fontavious Smith, Zeb Rice and Jontavius Baker with 10. Just outside the double digit range was Revonte Gandy with nine to close out the Starkville top five.
Starkville (3-3) faces the Tigers of Northeast Jones on Saturday.