Rivals Heritage Academy, Starkville Academy split basketball doubleheader


Starkville Academy’s Willie Latham (32) looks to get around Heritage Academy’s Reid Huskison (20).

Starkville Academy’s Willie Latham (32) looks to get around Heritage Academy’s Reid Huskison (20). Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch




Heritage Academy boys basketball coach Russ Whiteside has been waiting for Reid Huskison to break out. 


The junior guard said he's worked to become a more complete player, to cut down his turnovers and make "the best play for the team." That could include making a key pass or controlling the tempo of the offense, but Whiteside wants Huskison to extend the offense to the 3-point line, where the team "expects him" to knock down shots. 


After holding a narrow, single-digit lead throughout the first half against Starkville Academy on Friday night, Huskison nailed down four 3-pointers and scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Patriots (11-1) wiped out the Volunteers, 66-34. 


"Tonight, I just fed off the crowd's energy - they really got it up for us - and my teammates.," Huskison said. "We got pumped up for Starkville coming to town. Big shout-out to the crowd for helping get me going." 


Whiteside said he hopes Huskison's shooting rhythm continues. 


"He's a gym rat and shoots all the time," Whiteside said. "He's started to make some shots over the last three games." 


The Patriots knocked down eight 3-pointers in the game. Whiteside said perimeter shooting is among the areas of improvement for his players, who struggled to score in the first half, particularly when junior post Eli Acker picked up his second foul and sat the second quarter. 


"I'm always concerned when [Acker] has to go to the bench," Whiteside said. "You always wonder, 'do you leave him on the bench? Do you put him back in?' But as long as we had the lead there in the first half, we just decided it was best to leave him on the bench. Also, we put Davis Finch in, who's beginning to play some more minutes for us, and he gave us some good minutes there in Eli's spot, which made it easy for us to leave Eli over there with us." 


The Patriots' offensive output sparked from its on-ball pressure on the defensive end, which limited the Vols to just 12 points over the second and third quarters. Huskison, along with Moak Griffin, helped Heritage create transition-scoring opportunities, which often led to quality shots from the arc. 


"Just moving the ball and playing our pace," Huskison said. "We played at their pace, then we started getting up on defense, which led to a lot of offense." 


Acker finished with 15, and Griffin scored 11 for the Patriots. 


Jawon Yarbrough scored 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter fro SA (5-8). Willie Latham chipped in 7. 


Whiteside said the Patriots, who won't play again for a week, will use the next few practices to focus on fundamentals on defense. 


"Fundamentally, on defense, we're doing some stuff bad," Whiteside said. "Our effort has been great. Our execution hasn't always been good; it's one of those things, coming out of football late, before Christmas, it's always that way. But our effort and focus at practice has been good; it's just some of it is starting to take, with us getting in basketball mode." 


In other action, the Starkville Academy girls rebounded from a 22-point midweek loss to Pillow Academy to beat Heritage Academy 58-49. 


The Lady Patriots took a 25-23 lead in the second quarter after an 11-2 run capped by a Zarreya Dixon 3-pointer, but SA would run out to a 54-38 lead by the middle of the fourth quarter before SA cut into the deficit late in the game. 


Heritage scored just seven points in the third quarter. 


Starkville Academy (10-6) was led in scoring by Lillee Alpe, who finished 17. Mary Peyton Passons scored 16, including four 3-pointers. Meri Laci Archer scored 12. 


Heritage Academy was led by Sydney Adair, who finished with a trio of 3-pointers and 12 points. Gigi Fields had 11, and Bailey Harris scored 10.



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