November 20, 2012 11:16:03 AM
WEST POINT -- The Starkville Academy girls basketball team showed in the 2 minutes, 57 seconds why it is one of the best squads -- regardless of classification -- in the state of Mississippi.
Four players in a variety of ways to push the team to a nine-point advantage against Oak Hill Academy.
That lead grew to 16 by the end of the first quarter, 20 at halftime, and 26 midway through the third quarter.
Through it all, Oak Hill Academy remained steady. The Lady Raiders continued to run their offense, including a healthy does of handoff motion at the top of the key, and hoped.
The final eight minutes provided proof that any team can rally no matter the size of the deficit if the stay focused and capitalize on their opportunities.
As well as Oak Hill Academy fought back, Starkville Academy hung on for a 58-52 victory in a non-region game.
Maggie Proffitt and Nora Kathryn Carroll each had 16 points, and Tiffany Huddleston had 12 to help the Lady Volunteers (7-0) take their second-closes game of the season. Starkville Academy, which won three titles last season, including the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA and overall state championships last season, beat Bowling Green (La.) 51-46 in a tournament to open the season.
Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt has faced Oak Hill Academy coach Stan Hughey enough to know his teams don't quit. She credited the Lady Raiders for withstanding the initial surge and then hitting some shots to get back into the game.
"They're very, very good, very well coach, and they take basketball very seriously," Schmidt said. "We had such a tremendous start to the game. I was kind of in awe of us for a few minutes, to be honest with you."
Proffitt, a transfer from Columbus High School, scored on a drive, Carroll hit a jump shot, Sallie Kate Richardson added another jumper, and Tiffany Huddleston had a steal and converted the layup before Carroll hit a jump shot off a pass from Huddleston to make it 10-1 at the 5:03 mark.
The Lady Volunteers showcased a willingness to share the basketball and to turn defense into offense. That mentality helped Anna Lea Little, the fifth starter, to get into the scoring column with 3:59 to play in the quarter.
That trend continued into throughout the first half as the lead ballooned to 35-8 on a 3-pointer by Proffitt.
But Schmidt has seen enough games to know that it is very uncommon for a team to play at that high of a level for an entire game. That's why she wasn't surprised to see the Lady Volunteers to miss a few shots and to turn the basketball over in the halfcourt and in transition.
On the other end, Oak Hill Academy (6-1) continued to move the ball and make the defense work. While Hughey complimented the Lady Volunteers on their size, his team shared the ball and found open shooters. After the initial cold shooting spell, Maegan Ellis scored eight points in a row, including two treys, and Anna Ready added another 3-pointer in the second quarter to signal the Lady Raiders wouldn't go away.
Hughey credited his team's improved rebounding in the second half for fueling the comeback, but he admitted two quarters of strong basketball isn't going to get the job done.
Early one, Hughey shouted for his players to slow down in their half-court sets. He said better patience and execution allowed his team to keep the ball away from Starkville Academy and to disrupt its rhythm on offense."
"It was a really good second half." Hughey said. "I wish it would have been a whole four quarters to see what we could have come out with."
Even though Starkville Academy led 51-32 to start the fourth quarter, turnovers plagued it and left the door open for Oak Hill Academy. Following a drive by Anna McKell to open the quarter, the Lady Raiders responded by rebounding the basketball better and taking the ball to the basket. The aggressiveness resulted in a 16-0 run that saw them close to 53-48 on a 3-pointer by Rachel Herndon with 1:37 to go.
But Starkville Academy hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch and was able to exhale after an 0-for-7 shooting streak gave Oak Hill Academy a chance.
"You knew they were never going to quit, and you knew they could make shots," Schmidt said. "They changed their defense in the second half, and I think it took us a little bit longer for us to adjust."
In the boys game, Carnail Minor had a game-high 28 points to lead Starkville Academy to a 52-39 victory. Minor and Caleb Merchant (eight points) had baskets to start the third quarter as the Volunteers (1-4) turned up the defensive intensity to turn a 15-13 halftime lead into a 35-19 advantage.
Oak Hill Academy cut the lead to lead to 47-39 with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining but didn't get any closer. J.J. Bridges paced the Raiders with 20 points, while Drew Riley added seven.
Oshea Kemp and Brandon Sharpe also had seven points apiece for the Volunteers.