Starkville Academy’s Milla Davis drives around a Winston Academy defender Thursday. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
February 9, 2018 10:51:38 AM
Starkville Academy junior Aubree Campbell believes her team can compete for championships when it chooses to play defense.
"When we put our mind to playing defense, we can be really good," Campbell said. "Playing great defense for four quarters has not come easy for this team. When we lock down, we can compete with anybody."
One such time was the first half of Starkville Academy's Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA, District 2 semifinal round game against Winston Academy.
The Lady Volunteers held the Lady Patriots to seven first-half points, including one field goal.
Starkville Academy didn't do much more (14 points), but it did do enough to set the tone of a 36-28 victory at Heritage Academy.
Starkville Academy (19-12) will face Leake Academy at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for the district tournament championship.
"It is difficult to beat a team three times in one season," Starkville Academy coach Bruce Allsup said. "We had already played two nip-and-tuck games (with Winston Academy), so the girls knew to expect another one. Really proud of the lift Aubree Campbell gave us on the defensive end. She really helped others get involved. The first half defensively was really good and that got us the lead."
Starkville Academy shot 25 percent from the field but forced 27 turnovers.
Campbell had a double-double the hard way with 10 points and 10 steals. Overall, the Lady Volunteers were credited with 18 steals. Rush Brown was next with four.
"Sometimes we struggle to score points, so we have to be great on the defensive end," Campbell said. "We take pride in playing defense. You could tell (Winston Academy) was struggling against the press. In the second half, we executed better on offense."
Lillee Alpe and Campbell each hit 3-pointers in an 8-0 run early in the second quarter. That spurt ran the lead to 22-9.
Starkville Academy held Winston Academy to four first-half field goals and led 27-14 at halftime.
Alpe also had 10 points. Milla Davis had a team-high seven rebounds.
"Before the game we talked about winning a championship," Allsup sad. "When you get into a tournament, it's not as important how you got the win, as it is that you got the win. You simply want to win and advance. Now we come back Saturday and face Leake Academy for the championship. They have been one of the best programs in the state for so long, but we won't be intimidated. We will come here planning on winning."
Winston Academy finally found some offensive rhythm and reeled off six straight points to pull within 27-20.
Allsup called timeout and told his team to take a deep breath and relax.
Erin Lyle came out of the timeout with a critical 3-pointer, as the Lady Volunteers responded with a 9-2 run to close out the victory.
In the boys side of the bracket, Starkville Academy dropped a 56-53 decision to Canton Academy.
Things changed for good when Starkville Academy's leading scorer Trey Tyler fouled out on a charge/block call that was ruled an offensive foul.
Starkville Academy (17-7) held a one-point lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds remaining. The Volunteers lost that basket, lost their leading scorer, and lost the lead two trips later.
"We had a couple of really tough calls go against us," Starkville Academy senior Brady Richardson said. "Losing Trey really hurt us. It was hard to regroup after that."
Starkville Academy built a 19-10 lead midway through the second quarter. Canton Academy made some adjustments on defense and regrouped to take the lead.
Tyler scored the final four points of his 16-point first half to give the Volunteers a 26-24 lead at halftime.
"Losing Trey impacted us on the offensive end of the floor because he was having a nice game," Allsup said. "Brady (Richardson) really stepped up and picked up some of the slack. However, losing Trey was a big blow, and we struggled to recover from it."
Brady Richardson scored eight-straight points while the teams were matching scores throughout the fourth quarter.
Finally, the Panthers broke through for good when Joseph McLean was fouled driving to the basket with 4.7 seconds left.
McLean hit both free throws to break a 53-53 tie. That tie had been created on a deep 3-pointer by Starkville Academy's Reagan Richardson.
After McLean's makes, Starkville Academy was called for traveling. Hayden Vaughn hit 1 of 2 free throws to close out the win.
Tyler had 18 points, while Brady Richardson and Noah Methvin added 12.
Starkville Academy will face Leake Academy in the third-place game of the tournament at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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