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Starkville Academy sweeps Oak Hill

 

Robert Gonzalez, Dispatch Sports Correspondent

 

STARKVILLE -- Every team wants to win its last home game. On Tuesday, the Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers did that in memorable fashion. 

 

After falling behind 20-6, the Lady Volunteers rallied from behind to post a 52-47 win against rival Oak Hill Academy. 

 

The Lady Volunteers managed to tie the score 24-24 at halftime, but trailed 38-33 entering the fourth quarter. 

 

With the score tied 44-44 with 3 minutes remaining in the game, Starkville Academy''s Maggie Gladney made a 3-point basket that gave the Lady Volunteers a lead they would not relinquish. 

 

"Maggie made a big 3 for us that definitely took some of the pressure off," said Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt. "Overall I thought we played smart down the stretch allowing us to build a lead. We kind of went into a semi-stall offense to slow things down, inducing them to foul us." 

 

Starkville Academy (17-16) took a 50-44 lead with 53.2 seconds remaining as it made four critical free throws to seal the win. 

 

The Lady Volunteers also made their presence made on the glass as they out-rebounded Oak Hill (18-13) by nine in the final period. 

 

"We talked about that (rebounding) at halftime," said Schmidt. "Coaches say defense wins games, but rebounding wins championships. It helps you gain control. We weren''t controlling the paint in the first half and it put us in a hole. When we started making the hustle plays it put the pressure back on them." 

 

Valeri Stewart led the Lady Volunteers with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds. Senior center Jessica Mixon scored eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Tiffany Huddleston had nine points and 10 rebounds. 

 

Schmidt acknowledged the win was a key one both for the season and for the six seniors who played their final home games. 

 

"This is a very special class of seniors and are all very deserving of their success," said Schmidt. "They don''t all play substantial minutes, but are all positive and stick together. I think it shows the top amount of character when players, seniors, don''t play that much but still show leadership like that. It''s instrumental for success. Players like Babs Bouchillon and Steffanie Jurusik are why we''ve won 10 of 12. It''s not a "me" orientated team, it''s senior leadership." 

 

n Starkville Academy 56, Oak Hill 46 (B): The Starkville Academy Volunteers exploded to a 25-4 second quarter lead en route to an easy victory on Senior Night. 

 

The Volunteers used double-doubles from senior forwards Jonathon McKenzie and James Blair to control the paint and never allow Oak Hill any consistent offensive flow inside the perimeter. 

 

"There was a lot of emotion for us which seemed to give us a little extra giddy-up," said Starkville Academy coach Clay Stringer. "I was happy to see the extra adrenalin help out because a lot of times it can work against you. I was proud to get that lead because I knew they''d make a run at us eventually, which they did cutting it to seven points." 

 

McKenzie led all players with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Blair scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. 

 

As a team, Starkville Academy doubled up the Raiders on the glass 44-22. 

 

Oak Hill Academy coach Brian Middleton acknowledged the lack of a true "big man" was a major detriment against the much larger Volunteers. 

 

"Well first off, we obviously spotted them too much," said Middleton. "The lack of a big man hurts us in a game like this because it forces us out of the offense so much. We settled for too many long range shots and couldn''t rebound on top of it. (McKenzie) and (Blair) are two good big guys in there." 

 

Starkville Academy (19-11) went on a bit of a lull after jumping out to the 21-point lead. The Volunteers took a 29-12 lead into halftime and a 41-28 lead into the fourth. 

 

Oak Hill (7-22) pulled as close as 51-44 with 1:06 left, but missed five of its last six shots to end the game. 

 

"You have to give them credit, they started making shots late that they were missing earlier," said Stringer. "They started to execute better on us after we started scoreboard watching." 

 

Oak Hill was led by Jordan Thompson and Brett Baker with 19 points each. 

 

 

 

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