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The Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers broke the huddle to open the second half with one word.
For the 34th time this season, that's exactly what the Lady Vols did Friday night.
Starkville Academy was locked into a close battle for a half, but ended up outscoring the Jackson Academy Lady Raiders 35-17 in the second half to take a 53-31 victory at home on senior night.
It may not have been the start that the Lady Vols were looking for, but the way they finished was impressive in improving to 34-0.
Starkville Academy began the night by honoring its three seniors Tiffany Huddleston, Maggie Proffitt and Anna Lea Little.
With that to consider and knowing they were facing a good opponent in Jackson Academy were factors for the Lady Vols in the eyes of coach Glenn Schmidt.
"The emotion of the night effected us a little bit," Schmidt said. "JA plays good defense and we really have to work for our shots. We really didn't get cranked up early running the floor because they stopped us, but JA probably plays as good a defense as anyone we play against all year. We only scored 51 on them in their home gym and we get 53 here so that tells you they consistently play good defense."
Starkville Academy trailed briefly 6-5 in the first quarter, but a basket by Proffitt off an assist by Huddleston enabled the Lady Vols to take a 7-6 lead after the initial quarter.
A score by Nora Kathryn Carroll and a 3-point field goal by Little helped SA extend its advantage to 12-6 before the Lady Raiders could score again.
The Lady Vols had an 18-14 at halftime, but came out and outscored their visitors 15-5 in the third quarter to go up 33-19 after three frames.
"We seemed to get into a rhythm in the second half and I was pleased that we didn't lose it," Schmidt said. "That's the first time that things haven't gone well for us offensively early and we maintained our composure and fought through it. We went into halftime with just enough lead."
Carroll led SA in scoring with 16 points and hit four 3-pointers. She scored five of the seven points in the first quarter.
"I love the seniors and I wanted to give them a good last home game," Carroll said. "We just wanted to go out there and give everything we had."
As far as the difference between the first half and the second, Carroll said the emphasis at halftime was stepping up the pressure defense, not worry about JA's defense and just play their game.
Schmidt was pleased to see Carroll respond for her senior teammates.
"Nora had a huge offensive night for us," Schmidt said. "She came out and said, 'it may not be senior night (for me), but if they are going to guard those two seniors, somebody has got to do this,' and took it upon herself. These kids had been together for a long time and played a lot of sports together."
Sallie Kate Richardson followed Carroll in the scoring column with 12 points, while Huddleston also scored in double digits with 10 points. Proffitt chipped in nine points and Little had six points on a pair of 3-pointers.
"Our three seniors didn't have offensively the night they normally have," Schmidt said. "Maggie had three assists, two steals and three points and was one point away from double figures (in points). The assists and steals gets us going. Tiffany did score a little bit, but she had seven assists to go with 10 points. Anna Lea Little is just steady on defense. I look up and she'd be switched on somebody else's man and helping.
"Anna Lea and Maggie are very good offensive players, but they bring so much other than scoring. You could see a little emotion in Tiffany. She has a sister playing. Her parents went to school here. Her dad played here and his picture is hanging up over there (on the gym wall) and you could see all of the emotion building in her as the game started and she fought through all of that too."
The seniors completed a run of winning 37-straight games on the home floor.
"That's 37 games in a row on this court in two and a half years," Schmidt said. "The last loss was Dec. 11, 2010. What our kids have done here is a great tribute to them. Our fans have followed us and picked up on the enthusiasm the girls have for basketball. When a senior can say we went 37-0, that's something they will take with them forever."
The next action for the Lady Vols will be in next week's Class AAA-Division 2 Tournament at Hillcrest Christian.
Carroll said the approach will be the same as it has been all season as the postseason begins.
"We're just taking one game at a time," Carroll said. "We have to stay focused on each game."View more articles in: