Starkville Academy girls use 3-point shooting to put away Heritage Academy


Starkville Academy’s Mary Peyton Passons (23) and Meri Laci Archer (25) share an embrace after Friday night’s win over rival Heritage Academy.

Starkville Academy’s Mary Peyton Passons (23) and Meri Laci Archer (25) share an embrace after Friday night’s win over rival Heritage Academy. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch


Scott Walters



STARKVILLE -- Starkville Academy senior Mary Peyton Passons does not need a roster to know how many seniors are on her basketball team. 


Passons and teammate Aubree Campbell are the lone seniors trying to help this Lady Volunteers team grow up in time for postseason. 


Another step in the right direction took place Friday night when Starkville Academy beat rival Heritage Academy 43-32 in a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA, District 2 matchup at Volunteer Gym. 


The victory gives Starkville Academy the season sweep of their biggest rivals. It also put an exclamation point on Senior Night which featured Passons, Campbell and the lone senior on the SA boys' team, Ben Guest. 


"We knew we had to get our defense together, that was going to be the difference in the game," Passons said. "Sometimes our shooting is not on and we have off nights. It's important that we focus on the defensive end and that we keep making shots." 


Friday night, the Lady Volunteers missed their first 12 shots from the field. After that, Starkville Academy slowed the momentum down, by being more selective and taking better shots. Success started from 3-point range. 


"When we share the ball, we can be a difficult team to beat," Passons said. "In this game, we were sharing the ball and everybody was getting a chance to get some points. We were struggling there early but once we made a couple of shots it put everybody's mind to ease." 


Sophomore Lillee Alpe remains the type of player who can make sure the shooting slumps are not prolonged. Even thought a sophomore, Alpe continues to be the team's leading scorer and a major energy boost. 


"Every team is looking for consistency," Starkville Academy coach Bruce Allsup said. "You just need players who won't get down when they make a mistake. When you face adversity, you have to keep going. This team has grow up a lot throughout the season." 


With only two seniors and two juniors on the roster, Alpe will form the backbone of a team looking to get back among the state's elite. 


"Lillee is always in the gym," Passons said. "She makes sure she is always doing extra. Her ball handling will keep getting better. Offensively, she does a great job of creating her own shot. Her floor vision is great and that will help her emerge as a leader. When you have floor vision, you can help your teammates understand their roles a little better." 


Three straight 3-point baskets by Passons helped the Lady Volunteers wrestle the lead away early in the second quarter. After Passons' third three, Alpe intercepted a pass at midcourt and hustled to the basket for a layup and a 21-15 lead. 


The Lady Volunteers (17-8) would later scored the final four points of the first half for a 28-21 halftime lead. 


"The biggest challenge is keeping the confidence high," Alpe said. "You just have to keep playing. As the year has gone on, we have done a better of job of becoming a complete team." 


Passons has seen the same growth. 


"Caroline (Wood) is really playing well in the post," Passons said. "Meri Laci (Archer) is doing a great job of driving to the basket and creating offense. Since we are close to the end of the season, we just have to give one last push. If our shooting is on, we feel like we can compete with anybody." 


Gigi Fields scored back-to-back baskets as the Lady Patriots pulled within one at 28-27 a couple of minutes into the third quarter. 


Allsup called timeout and reminded his team to stay focused. 


Wood answered with a basket to end a four-minute scoring drought. From there, the Lady Volunteers went back to the defense to close out the win. 


Heritage Academy scored one point in the fourth quarter. 


For SA, Passons and Alpe each had 14 points. For HA, Anna Acker had 10 points. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott


Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.


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