By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Edward Townsel said his Starkville High basketball team wasn’t ready to play Friday’s MHSAA Grand Slam semifinal against West Bolivar.
His coach, Greg Carter, said his Class 6A state champion team showed zero intensity in Friday’s one-point win over the Class 2A state champion Eagles.
In Saturday’s Grand Slam championship game, the Yellowjackets had to kick it up a notch if they wanted to beat 5A state champion Callaway.
Thanks in large part to Townsel, the Yellowjackets can now relax, knowing that they took care of the Chargers in fine fashion, 61-45, on Saturday afternoon at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“We came out and played like we did when we started our playoff run,” said Townsel, who scored a game-high 25 points on Saturday after being held to just four the day before, in a 57-56 victory.
Jaquez Johnson, Rashad Perkins, and Gavin Ware each had nine points for the 30-2 Yellowjackets.
Jeverik Nelson and Deville Smith had 16 apiece for last year’s Grand Slam champions.
The spotlight on Saturday, though, belonged to Starkville’s senior point guard. Townsel hit five 3-pointers and played a major role in Starkville dictating the tempo of the game.
“I thought Townsel really set the tone early,” said Callaway coach Wayne Brent, whose team ended the season at 23-11. “He came out and made some shots. He made some deep 3’s and he can get to the basket, so it made it tough to defend him.”
Brent said normally when his team reaches the 28-point mark by halftime, his team is in good shape for the rest of the game.
However, that wasn’t the case on Saturday as the Yellowjackets had a 10-point cushion (38-28) at the intermission.
Townsel was the main factor in Starkville outscoring Callaway 19-11 in the second period to break open a two-point game after the game’s first eight minutes. He scored 10 of his 18 first-half points in the second quarter.
“We were able to dictate tempo today and I thought that was a big part of it,” Carter said. “I think they didn’t really want to play that fast. Once we got the tempo up, it was in our favor.”
Starkville then held Callaway to just 17 points the rest of the way to win its first Grand Slam championship.
“This team is going to be near and dear to me for a long time,” Carter said.