(Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Hillcrest Christian Lady Cougars got off to a good start against the Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers by hitting the first basket of the game Friday night.
After that point, the SA defense only allowed 40 more points to visiting Hillcrest Christian.
The Lady Vols kept the the Lady Cougars in check during a 60-42 victory at home.
Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt was happy to see her squad contest shots.
"(Hillcrest) made some shots after five or six passes and we stopped a couple of things they wanted to do," Schmidt said.
With the victory, the Lady Vols improved their records to 17-3 overall and 5-0 in the Class AAA South conference.
In the first quarter, Hillcrest had a difficult time guarding an SA player with the first name Anna.
Anna Lea Little and Anna Prestridge scored 15 of the 19 points for the Lady Vols as they took a 19-12 lead.
Starkville Academy out-scored Hillcrest 15-9 in the second quarter and extended its advantage to 34-21 at halftime. The Lady Vols duplicated the 15-9 difference in the third quarter.
"We really wanted to get up and down the floor, loosen ourselves up and get us into the flow that we'd like to play when somebody lets us," Schmidt said. "We did get up and down the floor and took 61 shots. Our percentage was a little off (36 percent), but getting 40 rebounds and getting down the floor was what our goal was. We wanted as many rebounds as we could and go with it. We were all over the boards."
Little, Sallie Kate Richardson and Tiffany Huddleston did enough in the rebounding department to make Schmidt proud. They combined for 24 of the 40 rebounds for the Lady Vols.
Starkville Academy continued to expand the margin to the point where Schmidt was able to play her bench.
When Schmidt went to her bench, it kept producing points.
"We had 15 bench points and that was huge too," Schmidt said. "Our kids off the bench did a really good job with Brittany Jacks, Lauren Atwell and of course Tiffany comes off the bench, but stays out there a lot."
Little led SA with 25 points, while Richardson had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Huddleston added 10 points.
Schmidt was happy to be able to accomplish some things the Lady Vols have been working on. One of those is using some half-court defense and also trying to rotate Huddleston at point guard to relieve Prestridge at times.
"It gives our team a different look and that's working really well," Schmidt said. "It gives (Prestridge) a break guarding the ball because she wears herself out bringing the ball up. Tiffany is taking up the slack there.
"We're just trying to get ready for the stretch. We've got seven weeks of basketball."
Starkville Academy hosts Lamar School today. Tipoff for junior high action is set for 2 p.m.
The Junior Lady Vols won a thrilling 27-26 decision against the Junior Lady Cougars behind the 13 points scored by Anna McKell.
Hillcrest Christian 47,
Starkville Academy 19
The final score may not have been to the liking of the Volunteers, but the effort is a positive that coach Mark Alexander can take from it.
Despite falling behind 12-3 after the first quarter with the only points coming on a Kyle Loman 3-point field goal and seeing his team trail 25-5 at halftime, Alexander found a reason to be encouraged.
"If you look at the score, you say what do you have positive to take away from that, but I was proud of the guys effort," Alexander said. "If you look at the way we played against Prep early in the year, we got beat 40 and really didn't compete, but (Friday) I didn't think we were intimidated. We competed until the end. We scrapped, we got loose basketballs and competed. That's all you ask for from a coach.
"Even though we got beat bad, I still think we're making progress and I think we're a better team."
One thing that caused concern for Alexander was the five points Starkville Academy had at halftime and the 19 for the game.
Although happy with the defense, Alexander would have liked the Vols to have gotten a little more offensively.
"You hold Hillcrest to 47 points so that's pretty good and what we're looking for," Alexander said. "We just couldn't make a shot. We had some good looks so you make a couple of those shots, it's a little tighter game."
Zachary Gerhart was the only Vol close to scoring in double figures with eight points against the state's second-ranked private school team.
"They are ranked No. 2 in the state for a reason," Alexander said of Hillcrest. "They are arguably right there with Prep as the two top teams in our league so we knew it was going to be a tough contest coming in and it was."
Starkville Academy saw its records fall to 7-10 overall and 0-5 in the conference, but it had won three of the last four games prior to Hillcrest, including an upset of public school Hernando at the Magnolia Heights Tournament over the holidays.
"That was a really big win," Alexander said. "When Calvin (Young) got hurt, we had to blow everything up and start over from scratch and we're having to play a whole different style, but it's how we have to play for our team to be successful. They have bought into that and I'm pleased with the direction."
The Cougars also won the junior high boys game 46-44, but the Junior Vols had two players to score in double figures with Colt Chrestman's 15 points and John McReynolds' 14 points.
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