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Front court key for Starkville Academy

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- If Monday was any indication of things to come for the Starkville Academy girls'' basketball team, count on seeing plenty of front-court action.  

 

Freshman forward Sallie Kate Richardson scored 22 points and transfer forward Anna Lea Little scored 14 in the Lady Volunteers'' 56-30 win against West Lowndes.  

 

With Starkville Academy losing forwards Anne Claire Craig and Maggie Gladney to graduation, having a pair of 5-foot-10 players to step in certainly doesn''t hurt the rebuilding process, no matter their age. 

 

Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt beamed about the ability of both forwards and their ability to play off of each other during Monday''s win. The duo scored all but three of the team''s first 17 points.  

 

"Inside, it was no contest," Schmidt said. "They played sharp working the high-low to each other. For forwards, both of those big girls can pass the ball really well and put the ball on the floor. They''re very confident." 

 

The addition of Little, an athletic forward who was home-schooled but started for Starkville Christian School last year, gives Starkville Academy an athletic group of forwards with Nora Kathryn Carroll and Mary Austin Barber.  

 

Still, the Lady Vols are a young team that will have to replace leading scorer and multi-sport athlete Tiffany Huddleston, who opted to drop basketball to focus on soccer. The team returns one starter in junior point guard Anna Prestridge. 

 

"I''m fitting in and meshing with the team," Little said. "It''s going well right now. It''s a really big adjustment for me right now. We ran basic plays (at Starkville Christian) because the program was new, but these are more detailed. Having Anna helps a lot and gives us a lot of confidence to run plays better." 

 

Monday''s blowout win came on the heels of the Lady Vols'' 9-3 record between Mississippi State''s team camp and Starkville''s city league slate. Schmidt thought there might be a hangover from such a busy week, and she was surprised to see her team not miss a beat. Influencing the expected flat play was the team''s youth. 

 

But as Schmidt has been reminded already this summer her underclassmen performed as veterans.  

 

"They''re ready to take over," Schmidt said. "Those youngsters have played enough basketball in their life that they shouldn''t be game-shy at all. They''re gym rats when it comes to basketball. They love their other sports, but they''re just as dedicated to this.  

 

"They don''t look like junior high players anymore." 

 

Though Huddleston is no longer in the fold, Schmidt is hopeful the varsity team''s new faces can have the same impact as Huddleston did during her eighth grade and freshman seasons.  

 

And, much like Huddleston provided a game-changing dimension with her speed and athleticism, Schmidt foresees the team''s dynamic changing through a seasoned Prestridge and the young players who''ll suit up in the fall. 

 

"Our whole game could change, to be honest with you," Schmidt said. "I really haven''t settled on how I want us to play. We''ve always played man. We''ve got some good size, and we may play some zone and mix our defenses up. We may run, and we may slow down to get the ball inside. We''ve got a lot more weapons than we had.  

 

"Maggie, Kylie and Anne Claire were great role players and would do anything you said to do. That''s a fun player to coach, but these youngsters can do a lot of different things." 

 

n Oak Hill Academy 32, East Oktibbeha 25 (G): In the summer months, basketball coaches usually are clamoring for better rebounding and defense.  

 

Oak Hill coach Stan Hughey thought his team turned a corner at last week''s Mississippi State team camp, moving past a rugged start to finish with two stellar defensive outings.  

 

Monday, the Lady Raiders beat East Oktibbeha for their second win this summer over coach Randy Brooks'' squad. 

 

Narrowly holding on to the win following six straight points to end the game from East Oktibbeha''s Shondra Nichols, the Lady Raiders were nearly left to rue blowing a 15-point lead they''d built after carrying a six-point lead into the break.  

 

Freshman point guard Megan Ellis scored nine of the Lady Raiders'' 12 second half points, but the simmered offense didn''t bother Hughey; stopping Nichols off the dribble in the second half drew the coach''s ire.  

 

"We didn''t close gaps very well and we let them dribble-drive us," Hughey said, "and when they did, we either didn''t help or we fouled them. We''ve got to work on that, but give Oktibbeha credit because they got after it and hurt us in the halfcourt." 

 

The Lady Raiders lost three seniors, including two all-district players from last year''s 16-10 team. Guard Tori Ellis is now the team''s elder-statesman, with sophomores Anna Ready, who suffered a rolled ankle Monday, and Rachel Herndon looking to pick up the roles left through graduation.  

 

That means taking just as many steps backward as forward, and Hughey has seen mixed results from his team this summer.  

 

He lauded his team''s press in the second half, which produced a trio of breakaway buckets for Ellis, and his team''s efforts in closing the game and getting a result.  

 

The mixed-bag of opponents during the summer circuit also provides his team the chance to match up with different athletes.  

 

"You play the public schools and they''re so athletic," Hughey said. "We''ve got to be more fundamental because we''re not going to out-quick them. We''ve got to be in position and our rotations have to be good against the teams we''re playing. 

 

"We got a win and got some more reps to work on things we wanted to coming in." 

 

 

 

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