Carter won't let Starkville boys take district tournament lightly

Starkville's Donte Powers (3) drives around a Madison Central defender.
Staff Writer

Coach Greg Carter knows better than anyone not to take the district tournament lightly.

The Starkville Yellowjackets were in a similar position a year ago when they entered the Class 6A, Region 3 Tournament. They had won 11-straight regular season games and capped a perfect regular season district schedule only to lose in the tournament to host Callaway.

This year, SHS head to Murrah Tuesday night for a 5:30 p.m. matchup with Madison Central in the semifinals of the tournament. The Yellowjackets have won 17-straight games this time around and were a perfect 6-0 in district play.

As Carter put it, all the regular season did was seed his team for this week’s play. Now they’re playing for a championship, position and the playoffs.

“Once you get to district tournament time, it’s almost like playing a totally different season,” Carter said. “Emotions and attitudes change because you get reenergized. Everybody can beat you at any given time so you have to be ready to play every night.”

Starkville (21-3) is coming off its second win in as many games against the Jaguars over a week ago when the Jackets beat them on their home floor 68-47. In the first matchup this season, SHS took home an 88-57 victory.
The tournament is a different story and why Carter said his team has to be ready to play one of their division rivals.

“They’re going to play extremely hard,” Carter said of Madison Central. “When we played them down there, it was a close ball game for three quarters. They shot it really well and I expect them to do the same (Tuesday).”

A win Tuesday puts the Jackets in the championship game on Friday night to face off against the winner of host Murrah and Northwest Rankin. To win both of those games and earn home court in the first two rounds will still be a challenge, but Starkville is playing as well as any team in the state at this point.

The Jackets last lost a game on November 30 when Okolona took them down 70-65 on the road. At the time, SHS was 4-3 but have turned things up a notch on the backs of senior guards Blake Rogers and Jordan Temple as well as junior center Atavius Jones, who provided a spark that was missing while his football team finished its season.

Carter always expects more out of his team especially with so much still to play for in the coming weeks. However, he likes where the Jackets sit heading into postseason play.

“We’re playing pretty well right now and this is a good time to be playing well,” Carter said. “We’re still a work in progress.”