January 5, 2010 9:06:00 AM
The Magnolia Heights Tournament didn''t produce any wins for the Starkville Academy boys basketball team last week.
But it gave the Volunteers a chance to grow, which is what coach Clay Stringer wanted.
"The tournament was a very good test for us," Stringer said. "I wanted it to be three tough games to see what we could work on, how tough we would be, and how we would respond to playing teams we don''t normally see. It was some very good preparation for our second half of the year."
Starkville Academy (1-17) begins that part of the schedule tonight at Heritage Academy.
After the Volunteers take on Lamar School in a non-conference game later in the week, the pace will pick up with three games each week until the end of the regular season.
Starkville Academy got a taste of that schedule last week when it played games for three consecutive days. The Volunteers lost to Lewisburg (Tenn.) High School 63-43 to open the tournament, then dropped a 67-26 decision to Marshall Academy and a 60-40 decision to North Delta Academy.
"Some of the teams there were way better than we are and are better than most of the teams on our schedule," Stringer said. "For us to play with them for even a quarter or a half or three quarters would give us a bit of confidence going into our conference season."
Starkville Academy only trailed North Delta 21-17 at halftime before being outscored 21-9 in the third quarter.
The Volunteers gave up an average of 63 points in the losses, so Stringer believes a more consistent effort on defense and a focus on taking care of the basketball should help his squad down the road.
"If we don''t turn the ball over and make mental mistakes we can play with a lot of teams," Stringer said. "We showed last week when we do those things and play defense we can play with people."
Starkville Academy seems to be getting improved play out of junior J.R. Gerhart.
After scoring eight points against Lewisburg and six points against Marshall, Gerhart broke loose for 20 points against North Delta.
The Starkville Academy girls basketball team received encouraging news when freshman guard Tiffany Huddleston learned she didn''t break a bone in her wrist, but her status for tonight''s game at Heritage Academy remains uncertain.
Huddleston hurt her wrist against Lewisburg (Tenn.) High School in the Magnolia Heights Tournament. She didn''t play against DeSoto Central High School. It was determined Huddleston just had a bad bruise.
Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt hopes Huddleston can get back into the lineup soon.
The Lady Volunteers (13-8) won two of the three games they played in Senatobia.
After losing to North Delta Academy 40-39 in an effort that was disappointing to Schmidt, Starkville Academy defeated Lewisburg High 41-18 and DeSoto Central 41-34.
With a roster that has three seniors, no juniors, six sophomores, and two freshmen, Schmidt said the tournament provided a learning experience that should serve the Lady Volunteers well.
"We got some things done," Schmidt said. "The tournament gave us an opportunity to play and gain more experience. I like playing during the Christmas holidays because the players are kind of relaxed and loose. It''s good for us to end the year with two wins before playing conference games with Heritage."
Starkville Academy''s girls program enjoyed a productive 2009. It advanced deep into the state tournament and started this season with 13 victories.
Schmidt is looking for some that success to continue.
"It was a big year," Schmidt said. "We''re going to try and make it a better one this year."