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By DANNY P. SMITH
The Starkville Academy seniors believe they have sparked something positive with the boys basketball program this season.
Prior to Saturday's game against the Clarksdale-Lee Academy Colts, the eight Vols seniors, seven players and one manager, were recognized for their years of service.
Patrick Jones, one of those seniors, went out and scored 20 points as Starkville Academy defeated Clarksdale-Lee 68-51.
With it being the last home action of the season for the Vols, it was enough to give Jones and company a boost.
"It's always an emotional thing when you are seniors and you know you're never going to play on your home court again," Jones said. "We just tried to come out and get a big win."
Starkville Academy coach Chris Lyle started a senior lineup of Jones, J.R. Gerhart, Jordan Graham, Jordan Dennis and Ford Polk. The other seniors are Adam Crittenden and Ian Tharp.
After only winning one game last season, the Vols were able to improve their overall record to 9-18. It was SA's second conference win of the season.
"What better way to go out than with a home victory on your floor, especially with what they went through last year," Lyle said. "You can't say enough about how they are working, wanting to get better, compete and wanting to win. I really believe they have a bright future."
Jones thinks the same thing can be said about the Vols.
"We're trying to turn this program around," Jones said. "I think we're starting it this year and doing a good job. We're taking it in the right direction."
Even though Starkville Academy may have gotten off to a slow start against the Colts in the first quarter, it was a different story in the second frame.
Baskets by Jones and Crittenden turned a 15-13 deficit into a 17-15 advantage for the Vols.
"I felt like Clarksdale-Lee came out with a lot of energy and a lot of effort," Lyle said. "They played very well, especially early and hit some big shots. They didn't shoot it quite as well when we played them the first time.
"I didn't feel we had quite the energy that we need to play at a high level. I don't want to take anything away from Clarksdale-Lee, but I don't feel we played our best basketball. We'll take the win."
After Clarksdale-Lee Academy knocked down a shot to tie the game at 17-17 with 6:44 left in the second quarter, SA went on a 7-0 run to go up 24-17 at the 4:27 mark.
The Vols were able to secure a 32-27 lead at halftime despite the three-point shooting ability by Josh Duhon of the Colts.
Crittenden and Jones opened the second half like they did the second quarter with two baskets each to increase the margin for SA to 36-27.
After securing a 45-35 lead after three quarters, the Vols out-scored the visitors 23-16 in the final frame to close out the game strong.
Along with the production from Jones, Gerhart added 11 points and Austin Kinard also scored in double figures with 10 points.
Starkville Academy 70,
Clarksdale-Lee Academy 31
The Lady Volunteers may not have had any seniors to honor, but they have played long enough to realize the importance of defending the home court.
Starkville Academy's girls ended the season winning the last seven games at home.
By beating the Lady Colts, the Lady Vols improved their records to 19-12 overall and 7-6 in the North AAA-Division I conference.
"We've developed a lot of pride playing here," Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt said. "The last half of the season we've played some good games here. I want to thank the fans and the staff. It takes a lot of people to pull off a basketball game and all of the people who volunteer their time.
"It was just the chance to end the home schedule."
The Lady Vols had four players to score in double digits with Nora Kathryn Carroll leading the way with 14 points. Anna Prestridge and Anna Lea Little added 13 points each and Sallie Kate Richardson scored 12 points. Richardson completed a double-double as she pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Starkville Academy teams have added a road game to the schedule at Kemper Academy on Tuesday, then will travel to Madison-Ridgeland Academy on Friday.