With the games he’s scheduled, it’s almost as if Starkville coach Greg Carter wants his team to lose. Truth be told, he’s surprised they’re still undefeated.
He’s concerned less about the Yellowjackets’ 19-0 record than with how they will handle the atmosphere today at Lanier. They play the defending Class 4A and Grand Slam champions at 6 p.m. in the MLK Jr. Classic.
Starkville is ranked No. 1 by the Daily Journal, and the teams are ranked 1-2 in the state by MaxPreps.com. Lanier (21-2) has lost only twice in the six years it’s been in its new gym.
Both teams were originally scheduled to play out-of-state teams, but those teams pulled out. So now we have one sweet in-state showdown.
“It’ll be a state tournament-type atmosphere,” Carter said. “We haven’t played very well in games in Jackson like that.”
The last time Starkville played in Jackson was in last season’s 5A state tournament, where it suffered an upset loss to Forest Hill in the semifinals.
Carter is wanting to test this squad as much as possible. He scheduled a game against Callaway for Saturday, but it was canceled due to weather. Tonight will provide an especially important measuring stick for a team that has been stronger than expected in the backcourt.
“I’m surprised by this team,” said Carter, “because I didn’t think this team would be as good as it is right now. … A lot of our success has been with our guard play. Even though we’ve struggled at times, overall they’ve played pretty well.”
Starkville’s strength, though, is inside with Latavious Williams (6-foot-8) and Chris Brand (6-9). The challenge tonight will come in handling Terry Church, who’s 6-3 but can play high or low. The senior is averaging 23 points per game.
Lanier coach Thomas Billups gives the advantage to Starkville.
“It’s not going to be a matchup, because we can’t match with them,” he said. “They’re so big and tall.”
3 p.m.: Noxubee County vs. Wingfield
4:30 p.m.: Provine vs. Memphis Raleigh-Egypt
6 p.m.: Lanier vs. Starkville