There were some lessons learned by the Starkville Yellowjackets in the three days of action at the Slam Dunk at the Hump Christmas Basketball Tournament.
Even though the Jackets failed to come out with a win, the games were beneficial to the growth of the team, Starkville boys coach Greg Carter knows that playing tough competitors like they faced this week will only improve his team in the future.
“We are going to play against teams like the teams we’ve played in this tournament,” Carter said. “We play against teams like that down the stretch in January and February. Those will be district games and games you have to win to advance, so playing tournaments like this helps a lot.”
On Friday, the Jackets closed the event with a 50-35 loss to the Panthers of Lanett, Ala.
“I thought we fought hard,” Carter said. “We gave ourselves a chance at the end, but we turned it over three out of the last four trips and that killed us.”
First period play was highlighted by Zeb Rice’s eight points and when all action ceased scoring was divided evenly with each team posting 12.
Starkville’s offense was stagnant during the second 8 minutes of play.
Lanett began to put pressure on the Jackets, holding them scoreless in the quarter to take a 22-12 lead into halftime.
“We dug a hole in the second quarter,” Carter said. “We didn’t score very well. (We) didn’t stop them and didn’t rebound. We didn’t rebound very well in the first half. (In the) second half we fought them a lot harder on the boards.
“They do a good job of getting the big guys close to the basket and keep them there on defense, so it’s hard to get offensive rebounds. He puts all his big guys up top so it’s hard to see around them, and their zone presented a challenge.”
Avonte Amos started and ended Starkville's scoring during the third period with a pair of mid-range jumpers. The Jackets’ offense was just not enough as the Panthers continued to lead posting a score of 36-21 heading into the home stretch.
The fourth quarter saw Lanett push its lead out to 41-23, before allowing Starkville’s defense to step up and hold the Panthers scoreless as the Jackets went on a 12-0 run. Starkville’s impressive scoring run allowed the team to close the gap to six, making it a 41-35 game.
Lanett regained composure ending the game on a 9-0 run, which allowed them to finish off the Jackets.
For the third game in a row, Amos led Starkville in the scoring category. On Friday, the senior posted 17, while Rice was the second leading scorer with 10.
Leading the way for the Panthers was Jalen Washington with 21, followed by teammate Justice Jackson with 17.
Knowing his team can only benefit from this type of competition and after speaking to participating teams, the planning committee is already looking at how to improve next year’s event.
“We think it was really successful,” Carter said. “We’ve talked to the coaches that played in this year’s event and all of them had some positive feedback for us and they all want to come back next year.
That’s a good thing and you know you are doing something right when they want to come back, so next year we are looking to keep on improving and making it better and better.”
After speaking with Starkville athletic director Stan Miller, Carter says they are not sure how they will improve the tournament, but improvements are certainly in the works.
“Hopefully next year, we will add to it,” Carter said. “I’m not exactly sure how we are going to do it. Dr. Miller and I have been talking about it and we are going to add to it somehow, we just don’t know exactly what we will do yet. Right now we are going to keep it at the Hump. We might move it to Thursday, Friday and Saturday and I think that will help some.”