January 26, 2013 11:33:46 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE --Up in Volunteer Loft, the Starkville Academy student section goes wild when the girls basketball team makes a 3-pointer.
Cheer leaders throw T-shirts into the stands and the junior high students go mad wild over a chance to grab some free clothing. There is even a chant of "Maggie" reserved for when newcomer Maggie Proffitt makes a basket.
On Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of T-shirt grabbing and name chanting as the state's top-ranked team moved to 29-0 with a 66-44 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA victory against Presbyterian Christian.
"We did a lot of things really well today," Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt said. "We normally shoot around 45 percent, so our numbers were off from the field. We made up for that with some really great defense and hustle. When you play a really good team, playing hard for the entire game will carry you a long way."
Playing hard has been the trademark for a Lady Volunteers squad considered by many to be the best among both private and public schools. The veteran coach Schmidt demands excellence from the opening tip to the final horn.
"We really enjoy playing the game," Starkville Academy junior Sallie Kate Richardson said. "I think that translates well on the court. When you have the opportunity that we have, you are going to play extra hard. We try to go all out every day."
The Lady Volunteers scored the final five points of the first quarter to grab a 15-6 advantage. A 10-0 run in the early stages of the second quarter set the tone for the rest of the contest. By the time, Richardson and Tiffany Huddleston scored on back-to-back steals and layups, the Lady Volunteers held a commanding 25-9 lead.
"We had trouble defending them because they like to play one-on-one," Schmidt said. "They have a very good player in Trista Magee and Hannah Sellers is also very good. They like to play one-on-one and try to take you. They hope they foul you. We did that early on. We adjusted as the game went on. We were patient and got the ball into the places we needed to.
"Nora Kathryn Carroll was a big key to our defense. We put a lot on her and she really responds."
Schmidt noted the hard work of her squad could be found in the stat sheet where four players were in double figures in scoring and just as important to the coach, two players were in double figures in rebounding.
"We knew we had a job to do tonight and we came out and got right on top of it," Richardson said. "We wanted to take advantage early and get them down. It is a great feeling when you play as well as we did as a team."
Starkville Academy followed with a similar 10-0 run to build a 34-14 advantage in the closing minute of the first half.
The Lady Bobcats (21-4) put the ball in Magee's hands more in the second half and rallied. The Lady Bobcats trailed only 41-29 after Magee scored back-to-back baskets with 3:45 left in the third quarter.
Starkville Academy dialed long distance again to put the contest out of reach. Anna Lea Little and Proffitt rammed home back-to-back treys. The student body also booed loudly when a basket by Carroll was ruled a 2-point basket instead of a 3-point basket.
The Lady Volunteers hit eight 3-pointers and shot 39.6 percent from the field. Starkville Academy held a slight 34-30 rebounding advantage and forced 17 turnovers.
Little paced Starkvile Academy with 16 points, while Richardson added 15. Huddleston and Proffitt each added 11 points. Little and Richardson each posted double-doubles as each pulled down 10 rebounds.
As the victories mount for the Lady Volunteers, so does the pressure. However, Richardson said the squad is ready to defend each of its three state championships from last season.
"There is a big target on our back, but I feel like that we like the pressure," Richardson said. "The distractions are coming but we want to be the state championships again. We are not stopping until we get what we really want.
Presbyterian Christian received 16 points from Magee and 10 rebounds from Sellers.
In the nightcap, the Starkville Academy boys (13-12) took a 37-36 victory. Raheim Robinson led the Volunteers with 10 points.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter