Starkville Daily News
Jacket effort falls short against No. 1 Eagles
There were only 5 seconds left on the clock, but the Starkville Yellow Jackets had a trip to Jackson and the Class 6A Final Four in their hands.
There was no other player that needed to touch the ball on that final play than senior Connor Rogers and that's who the team would live or die with as the season was on the line.
Rogers drove to the right side of the line, took the ball strong to the block and put the shot up. It was no good.
“Coach told me that I just had to go with it,” Rogers said. “I feel like I should have just pulled up, but I'd had success going all the way. I got a good look at the rim. It just didn't go in.”
The miss ended the season in heartbreak for an SHS team that was locked in on winning another state title. Instead, it was a 43-42 defeat to No. 1 Horn Lake in what many believe could have been a battle between the two best teams in Mississippi.
The Jackets had been the only blemish on the record for the Eagles all season and were within an eye lash of being loss number two. Horn Lake would find a way.
“We knew that was what type of game that was going to be,” SHS coach Woodie Howard said. “We had our chances, but we missed nine free throws, a bunch of easy baskets around the rim and felt like we just didn't go up strong. We felt like that game was on us.”
It was a game in which offense was at a premium for both teams. The Eagles lived inside the paint while the Jackets were playing inside out and had opportunities to knock down shots. Those shots just refused to fall.
SHS shot an ice cold 18of-45 from the field, 2-of-15 from 3-point range and 4-of13 from the line. All Starkville needed was just one more of those shots to fall through, but it wasn't meant to be.
Class 6A Mr. Basketball Makhi Myles of the Jackets was heavily game planned for by the Eagles. He had just
3-of-10 shots fall as he managed just eight points in his final game and he couldn't get a score in the fourth quarter.
In fact, no one could score unless they were Rogers for SHS. They entered the final frame trailing 32-31 and then
Rogers took over. The senior came out and scored all 11 points for his team in the final 8 minutes and at one point had them up 40-35 with 4 minutes left.
“Coming out of halftime, coach told me it was time to pick it up,” Rogers said. “My shot was kind of slow early on, but I just needed to get to my spots. I got to my spot and found shots that I could make. They came out and took Myles away in the post and made other guards step up. We got a couple of shots to go in and it was good until that last stretch.”
The Jackets held the lead for most of the fourth quarter and were up by three points in the final minute. After SHS missed the front end of a one and one at the free-throw line with under 30 seconds left, the Eagles got a score on the other end to regain the lead. The Jackets had two chances to get the win missing a 3-pointer from the corner and then Rogers' last shot at the end.
It was a difficult end to the season for an SHS program with much pride. The Jackets came up short from their ultimate goal of winning it all and anything short is a failure to many, but Howard's second SHS team improved on its second place district finish last year and early exit by playing an incredibly challenging schedule and finishing the year 25-5 with a district title. It's onward and upward.
“I feel like we took a step,” Howard said. “It's not the step that we wanted to take, but it's a step in the right direction. I told the guys that we start Monday getting ready for next year. It's time for underclassmen to step up and everybody getting better at every aspect of their game.
“The seniors are gone. Now it's time for someone to step up and be that warrior that we're looking for.”