JACKSON -- The Wayne County High School boys basketball team was simply better than Starkville in every way possible.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School boys basketball coach Greg Carter has a short list of keys to victory for his team at the state tournament. "In the Big House, everybody is really good," Carter said. "It comes down to taking care of the little stuff, that and making shots. I know that sounds simple, but this is not rocket science. The championship teams are the ones who take care of the little stuff and make shots."
PHEBA -- Push, pull, prod, bump, elbow. You name it, Hebron Christian senior center Tori Nichols has felt it from opponents. You can't blame them, really, because Nichols has been so dominant that two and three players often have trouble slowing her down so they have to resort to any means necessary to gain a stalemate or an advantage.
STEENS -- Baseball players and coaches at Hebron Christian have big goals for this season. The Eagles want to win a district championship. "Our expectations are really high this year," Hebron Christian coach Cass Tapley said. "We have raised the bar this year. We are in it to win every game we play. Anything less than a district championship will be a disappointment."
CALEDONIA -- After a dismal performance at the plate during the final preseason jamboree last week, Caledonia High School baseball coach John Wilson thought his team had taken a step back. Caledonia struck out 18 times in 24 at-bats in a pair of four-inning games at Columbus. Sure, the Feds' top two hitters from the previous season were gone, but the rest of the roster was intact. Wilson was keen to see his team close the gap after losing 13 games in which they led after the fifth inning in 2011.
PELAHATCHIE --- Go ahead and call Starkville Academy the comeback champions. For the second time in as many days, the Lady Volunteers basketball team rallied from a double-digit deficit to take home the school's first-ever Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA state championship with a 47-35 win over Madison-Ridgeland Academy Saturday afternoon at East Rankin Academy.
JACKSON -- That one fleeting moment to tie the game. That's all Aberdeen High School boys basketball coach Roy Hazzle thought his team needed to be playing for a Class 3A state championship gold ball trophy next week.
Four sophomores and two seniors earned their first start and first taste of varsity action for the New Hope High School baseball team Friday. It was the perfect time for coach Lee Boyd to get his first look at how his young squad handles a deficit. New Hope overcame a three-run hole with a five-run third inning against Amory High en route to a 6-4 win in the season opener for both teams.
STARKVILLE -- Successful basketball teams excel when players perform their roles. Sometimes the same can be said about families. In the case of the Starkville High School boys basketball team's Mike and Steve Brand, each knows one the other quite well, and the brothers complement each other quite well on and off the court.
PELAHATCHIE -- The Starkville Academy girls basketball team defeated Jackson Academy 34-30 on Friday in the semifinals of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA state tournament at East Rankin Academy.
ABERDEEN -- Aberdeen High School has not lost back-to-back basketball games during the 2011-12 season. That statistic will be put to the test Saturday when the Bulldogs (26-6) face Kemper County (26-8) in a semifinal game Saturday at the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state tournament.
ABERDEEN -- Aberdeen boys basketball coach Roy Hazzle stands on the baseline of Roy Hazzle Gymnasium barking out pointers to four different players on one offensive set. The 59-year-old Aberdeen native is working just as hard as he did on his first day of employment, Halloween of 1977. The hard work continues to pay off as the Bulldogs are headed back to the Mississippi Coliseum to make a sixth-ever appearance in the Mississippi High School Activities Association's state championship tournament.
STARKVILLE -- Armed with a mind-set to "finish" this season, the Starkville Academy baseball team had to like what it saw Wednesday from pitcher Ryan McKell. The senior threw a five-hit shutout to lead Starkville Academy to a 10-0 victory against Oak Hill Academy in a five-inning contest at Volunteer Field.
The Starkville Academy girls basketball team stayed alive, while the Oak Hill Academy girls basketball team's season ended Wednesday night in state tournament action in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools.
Inside out or outside in. Either way you diagram it, Anna Lea Little and Sallie Kate Richardson can make you pay. Their play is part of the reason the Starkville Academy girls basketball has forced the school to clear space in its trophy case.
On a night where few defensive plays were routine, Starkville Academy made two great defensive stops when it needed them most. Center fielder Drew Pellum made a diving catch to end one threat, while pitcher Hunter Bolin made a game-ending snag to help the Starkville Academy baseball team beat Heritage Academy 4-3 in the season opener for both teams Monday night at Trip Carson Field.
WEST POINT -- Tori Ellis isn't the loudest person on the Oak Hill Academy girls basketball team. The multi-sport standout also isn't the most aggressive player on the squad. But the senior guard understands the urgency or her final prep basketball season and how her teammates look to her to set the tone.
JACKSON -- The Class 5A North State boys basketball championship trophy will stay in Jackson in 2012. Even without its leading scorer Malik Newman, the Callaway High School boys basketball team used an emphatic second-half run to beat Starkville 59-48 just 10 days before both teams head to the state finals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
When the Heritage Academy boys basketball team needed a lift Saturday night, junior David Hardy was ready to answer the call. After big man Bobby McGrath landed in early foul trouble, Hardy saw extended playing time and delivered in a 67-59 loss to Washington School in the third-place game of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II tournament in Columbus.
Don't lose focus if Tiffany Huddleston is guarding you. If you look away or leave the ball unprotected for an instant, the Starkville Academy junior is liable to poke it away and race to the other end and score. Few athletes can do that on the soccer field and on the basketball court. But Huddleston's ability to round back into All-State form is just another reason why the Starkville Academy girls basketball team can say today it is a champion.
1. Former Bulldog Renfroe hopes to stick with Padres LOCAL SPORTS
2. Donahoe leaving Heritage Aca. for top job at Marshall Aca. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. MSU shooting for first regional at new home LOCAL COLUMNS
4. No. 11 MSU women face big test at No. 15 Texas A&M COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Mullen fills last spot on coaching staff COLLEGE SPORTS