January 30, 2018 11:33:39 PM
By Hunter Sciara
Special to The Dispatch
STARKVILLE -- One thought kept pounding in Brady Richardson's head: District champs.
Richardson wasn't sure how he was going to help the Starkville Academy boys basketball team achieve that goal Tuesday night, but he was going to do anything he could to help the Volunteers realize.
It turns out Brady and his brother, Raegan, got into the act on the defensive end at just the right time to provide the spark.
After seeing his team's lead cut to one point in the fourth quarter, Brady Richardson forced a turnover deep in the left corner and took the basketball coast to coast for a layup between two defenders.
On Canton Academy's next possession, Raegan Richardson jumped a pass at the top of the key and took the ball all the way to the rim to extend Starkville Academy's lead to five points en route to a 52-49 victory in a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA, District 2 game.
"All that was in my head was tying the district champs if we win this game and how much pressure was on," said Brady Richardson, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite the defensive stops, Canton Academy hit two free throws and scored on the next possession. Starkville Academy hit 1 of 2 free throws to kick the lead back to two points with 44 seconds remaining.
Canton Academy's full-court pressure nearly forced a turnover, but Noah Methvin (eight points, four rebounds) hustled after a loose ball that was bounced and fumbled from mid-court to the baseline. Methvin laid out and helped force a held ball that allowed the Volunteers to maintain possession.
Brady Richardson was fouled and hit two free throws with 29 seconds remaining that helped seal the deal.
"We expect him to make plays in crunch time, and he was able to do that." Starkville Academy coach Bruce Allsup said, "If he continues to do that, we will continue to win games."
The victory enabled Starkville Academy to clinch a share of the district title with Heritage Academy. The teams split two regular-season meetings. It is the third year in a row the Volunteers (16-5, 6-2) have claimed a regular-season title.
Raegan Richardson paced Starkville Academy with 16 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
Trey Tyler added nine points and six rebounds for Starkville Academy.
In the girls game, Mary Peyton Passons had 21 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals to lead Starkville Academy to a 57-40 victory.
Passons helped give the Lady Volunteers a 29-15 halftime lead when she posted up on the lower right block and received a pass from Lillee Alpe, (12 points, four rebounds, three assists). With a hard head fake toward the middle of the paint, Passons opened herself up for the easy turnaround jumper.
"She was tremendous." Starkville Academy Coach Bruce Allsup said, "She did a good job getting around our back screen to get her inside, and she delivered for us like she always does. She really sparked us there."
The Lady Volunteers (17-11, 6-2 district) led by 24 points after the third quarter.
"I thought it was execution," Allsup said. "It's an easy game when you execute like that. We did a tremendous job."
Milla Davis had six points, 10 rebounds, and five assists for Starkville Academy.
Starkville Academy will return to action Friday night against Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) opponent Belmont.