COLUMBUS – The Starkville Lady Yellowjackets have already played some pretty good teams during the pre-Christmas part of the basketball season.
Meridian and Columbus are two squads that have made it difficult on Starkville.
On Friday afternoon, they faced perhaps the best.
The Southaven Lady Chargers jumped out to a 22-2 lead on the Lady Jackets after the first quarter and never looked back in taking a 69-34 victory at the Joe Horne Çolumbus Christmas Invitational.
SHS girls coach Kristie Williams has not apologized for the tough schedule and believes it will benefit the team down the road.
"We wanted to be challenged because we knew that going into the second half of the season, we're going to be pushed hard by our own district members and other opponents as we get ready to look down the stretch," Williams said. "Although we hated to lose, we did do some things OK. There are still a lot of things to work on, but we played a tough team and Southaven by far one of the best teams in the state and not just in 6A."
The Lady Chargers went on a 14-0 run to open the game before Imane Montgomery hit the first basket for the Lady Jackets at the 1:20 mark of the first quarter.
Southaven continued to add to its lead and held a 36-14 advantage at halftime.
"We knew (Southaven) was going to come out playing hard," Williams said. "All of the scouting reports we had said they were a run and gun type of team and look to push the ball. They did just that.
"Early on, we were a little nervous about going in and playing the No. 1 team. We had a lot of jitters until about midway, but by then Southaven had already set the momentum to their side."
Montgomery led SHS with 10 points, while Blair Schaefer added nine points, all in the second quarter. Destiny Belle scored eight points off the bench in the fourth quarter.
Williams was glad to see players like Belle continue to play despite the score.
"We told them don't look at the scoreboard," Williams said. "We're playing to build up fundamentals, taking care of the ball and having confidence in everything that you do."
Southaven coach David Baldwin saw the potential the Lady Jackets had on the court, but was proud that the Lady Chargers took care of business once again.
"(Starkville is) a good team and did some good stuff," Baldwin said. "(Schaefer) is a good player and coach does a good job with them. Sometimes the other team is just better and we were the better team (Friday).
We had a starter hurt so we weren't at full strength, but when you have at least five college players, they are easy to coach. Sometimes you don't want to over-coach. You just let them play."
Starkville, which fell to 6-3, plays at the Kemper County Tournament on Dec. 28. The opponent will be Sumter Central (Ala.) High School at 3:30 p.m.