Kyler Yarbrough sent a text message to his coach the night before Meridian’s 6A championship rematch with Starkville, offering up his willingness to do whatever it took to come out of it with a win.
The senior guard had his struggles from the field Thursday night but made the right shot when it mattered most. Down by a point with less than 90 seconds to play, Yarbrough had barely enough time to scope out his target, catching a pass and firing off a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the host Wildcats ahead.
Down by two, the Yellowjackets made a run at the basket but were called for traveling. Makeem Roberts made only 1 of 2 free throws on the other end for the Wildcats, giving them a three-point lead.
Still able to tie the game, Starkville passed the ball around trying to open opportunities as the clock ticked under 25 seconds. Coltie Young eventually got the ball and charged for the basket. Jaylen Davis deflected the shot but was whistled for a foul with 14 seconds left. Young Jr. made his first free throw, getting Starkville within two, but missed the second, and as Roberts came down with the rebound, he was sent back to line off a foul.
This time, he nailed both shots, and the Meridian boys basketball team sealed a 55-51 victory to avenge its loss in last March’s title game.
“Kyler is a man of his word,” Wildcats head coach Ron Norman said. “He texted me last night, said, ‘Coach we got you,’ and I trusted him. He didn’t shoot it well all night, but it’s not how many you make, it’s when you make them, and he came through big.”
The Wildcats went down by double digits early on and trailed the Yellowjackets 22-11 after the first quarter. They crawled their way back, however, and held their opponents to nine points in the second while getting within four by halftime.
Meridian (2-0) equalized the game in the third quarter when Azerious Ellis fed a pass to KeEdrick Armstead, who made the basket to make the game 34 apiece. An offensive rebound and putback shot by Armstead a few minutes later gave the Wildcats their first lead since the opening minutes of the contest.
Starkville (1-1) took a 41-40 lead into the final quarter. Later on, with the Wildcats holding a two-point lead with under two minutes left, Trey Jackson hit a go-ahead 3 to put the Yellowjackets up 50-49. Yarbrough answered on Meridian next possession, giving the Wildcats the lead for good.
“The feeling was, we were up,” Yarbrough put simply. “I knew we were going to win after that.”
Yarbrough finished with a team-high 13 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game, with four rebounds, Ellis and Roberts each had 12 and Armstread added seven points and six rebounds. Young led all scorers with 19 for Starkville.
“I don’t care about how many shots or how many free throws we missed,” Norman said. “Did we make enough plays to win, and we did.”
MERIDIAN GIRLS 84, STARKVILLE 37
Deneshia Faulkner waited until her team was up by 45 points before pulling back her full-court press and putting in her subs.
“That’s what we’ve been practicing on, and right now things are not perfect,” Faulkner said. “We’re going to stick with it until we get it right.”
The Meridian girls basketball team used its fast-paced, pressing defense to force turnovers, and points off those turnovers, in its 84-37 win over Starkville.
The Lady Wildcats led 23-11 after the first quarter, and were up 49-19 at the half. They scored 20 more points in the third quarter, to the Lady Yellowjackets’ eight, before scoring nine with their subs in the final quarter.
Meridian (3-0) made 10 3-pointers on the night. Ti’Ian Boler scored a game-high 17 points, Arianna Patton had 15 and Tymesha Reed added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Wildcats’ boys and girls teams will host Sumter Central Saturday.