December 2, 2009 8:29:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Heritage Academy basketball coach Bruce Allsup learns more and more about his boys team each game it plays.
With four games in five days this week, he should find out quite a bit.
The Patriots had played only three games prior to Tuesday night''s matchup at Starkville Academy.
Heritage Academy made sure it began the week on a positive note by recording a 65-37 victory.
The Patriots (4-1) used hot shooting by Cole Walker and Will Swedenburg to establish a 22-10 lead after the first quarter.
"We''re very capable of having some good offensive nights," Allsup said. "We''ve been shooting the ball bad the last several games, but tonight we shot the ball better and what I expected to shoot. We''ve got a lot of guys who can shoot it, but just haven''t been doing a good job from that aspect."
Allsup said Heritage Academy has a chance to be very good, but must improve defensively.
Hunter Brown, who scored 11 points for the Patriots, said there are several players capable of running the floor and scoring.
"When we get into the flow of the game, everybody has speed and can get fast-break points," Brown said. "We need to do better in halfcourt offense because it''s going to be real important when we go down to Madison in the tournament."
Heritage, which begins play at the Madison-Ridgeland Academy Tournament against CM&I at 5:15 p.m. today, has four seniors in the starting lineup.
Allsup values the leadership from Brown, Swedenburg, Justin Frye, and Tyler White.
"They''ve been through the wars a little bit," Allsup said. "Most of the people who are playing got all of the minutes last year. They''ve got an opportunity to show that leadership. We''re going to go as far as our seniors can take us. That''s what we''re looking for."
Walker, the other starter as a junior, led the Patriots with 13 points.
Brown said Walker is a leader on the court, too.
"Each night, he can come out and make shots," Brown said. "He''s done that all year and last year."
Unlike Heritage Academy, Starkville Academy has no seniors on the roster. The Volunteers start four juniors and a sophomore.
Starkville Academy coach Clay Stringer said days off for Thanksgiving didn''t come at a good time for his players.
He thought the Volunteers had begun to play better before the break.
"We started to come together in a lot of ways," Stringer said. "We started handling the ball better, took better shots, and (were) playing very good team defense. Then Thanksgiving hit us and you have to take a break. When we came back, we kind of lost our place in the season and ran up against a team that shot the lights out."
Starkville Academy (1-7) also will play in the MRA Tournament. It will face Pillow Academy at 7:45 p.m. today.
Stringer is anxious to see how his team will respond.
"I told them this doesn''t mean we''re awful and if we beat somebody, it doesn''t mean we''re great," Stringer said. "We''re always still somewhere in the middle. There are always some things where we can get better."
Junior J.R. Gerhart led the Volunteers with 14 points.
"He handles the ball, plays defense, takes charges and makes a shot here and there," Stringer said.
n Starkville Academy 42, Heritage Academy 26 (G): Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt felt pretty comfortable with a 25-15 lead at halftime.
That''s until she remembered Madison Ford played for the other side.
After Ford scored 11 points in the first half, Schmidt decided to change defenses and use a box-in-one.
Ford only scored six more points to finish with 17.
"Madison Ford is a very good basketball player, and has worked to make herself into a great basketball player," Schmidt said. "There was a time where she could only play one position, but she has become a versatile player. I felt like she could take the game over and going to a box-in-one might make her work harder and it worked."
Starkville Academy (6-5) only allowed Heritage (3-4) 11 points in the second half.
Allsup knew the Lady Volunteers would be tough to deal with on the road, and his fears were realized.
"I thought they totally dominated every phase of the game," Allsup said. "They outplayed us and outcoached us. Coach Schmidt just does an outstanding job, and she had her girls ready to play. We just didn''t respond."
Freshman guard Tiffany Huddleston led Starkville Academy with 12 points. Senior Kylie Lockhart added 11 points. Freshman Mary Austin Barber had seven points off the bench and Schmidt said she "did a good job."
"We were able to sustain enough offense all four quarters to keep ourselves going, and I was so pleased with the way we played," Schmidt said. "Our seniors have come out our last three home games, have set the tone, and have been very focused.
"Winning is good, but getting better to play well at the end of the year is what''s important."
The Lady Volunteers and Lady Patriots also will play in the MRA Tournament.