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From Staff Reports
GREENWOOD â€“ The Starkville Academy Junior Lady Volunteers capped off their 2010-11 hoops season Saturday by capturing the MAIS North AAA-I Tournament championship.
SA defeated Madison-Ridgeland Academy 33-31 in overtime to claim the title at the event hosted by Pillow Academy.
"We just came together this year and against all odds, found a way to win," said SA head coach Jessica Dickens.
The Lady Vols defeated Magnolia Heights on Wednesday and upended Heritage Academy on Thursday in order to advance to Saturday's championship game.
On Saturday, Maridee Higginbotham scored 19 points and hauled in five rebounds for the Lady Vols.
Peyton Scrivner just missed a double-double for SA with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Anna McKell scored two points and gathered six rebounds, while Lauren Temple had five blocks and six rebounds for the Lady Vols.
Starkville Academy finished its junior high season with a record of 21-6.
"A lot of people wouldn't have picked us to be number one at the beginning of the year," said Dickens. "But (the team) came in and they believed in our system and what we're trying to do."
Dickens said her squad's success was earned as her team worked diligently throughout the year.
"They probably put more hours in than any other team and worked as hard, if not harder, than any other team," said Dickens. "They practice all year long with the high school team too, and just got better every day and every game."
With their Junior Lady Vol careers now over, current freshmen Higginbotham, Scrivner, Temple and Shelby Marsh will all likely be joining the Starkville Academy varsity squad next year.
Dickens says she believes all four of the sophomores-to-be have the tools to build upon their junior high success once they are playing on the high school stage.
"Our philosophy is that the junior high program is a building block and a stepping stone," said Dickens. "We don't play, necessarily, to win championships in junior high, but focus on becoming fundamentally sound and get some experience.
"But the fact that we were able with this group to play fundamentally sound and to learn aspects of the game and still go 21-6 and be champions, I think it gives them tremendous confidence in themselves and a boost for them when they get to high school basketball."