Starkville Academy's Zachary Gerhart (2) and Carnail Minor (10) put defensive pressure on Parklane Academy Friday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
It's just the type of effort that Starkville Academy boys basketball coach Mark Alexander can build from.
Down by 10 points at 29-19 in the third quarter, the Vols fought back to take a 30-29 lead against the Parklane Academy Pioneers with 50 seconds remaining in the third.
Even though SA eventually lost a 44-40 decision to Parklane, Alexander was proud of the way his team showed heart when it could have given in.
"We battled," Alexander said. "One of these games we are going to catch a break because the guys have played so hard. I'm proud of them and we just need to keep plugging away."
The Vols trailed 42-40 with 1:35 left in the game and were in a position to have to foul to get the basketball.
After finally getting the Pioneers to the line where they missed, Starkville Academy gained possession and got Carnail Minor a good look from 3-point range, but his shot fell off the mark.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win," Alexander said. "We thought about calling a timeout and going for the two, but Carnail had been hot and we decided to go with it. It's a play we run in our continuity offense. We set two ball screens up top for him and let him play. It was a good look and right in front of our bench. It was on line and we thought it was in."
Even though the game came down to Minor's miss, Alexander was quick to point out there were four or five layups missed during the course of the outing that could have made a difference.
"If we make those, it doesn't necessarily come down to (Minor's missed shot)," Alexander said.
A 3-point play by Minor gave the Vols a 5-3 lead with 5:23. It was an advantage that stood until the 1:52 mark of the first quarter when Parklane's Brady Lea scored on a putback.
Austin Kinard put SA back on top with a basket with 1:41 remaining in the first quarter, but the Pioneers scored to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Another basket by Kinard and one by Caleb Merchant gave the Vols their biggest lead of the game at 11-8 at the 5:31 mark of the second quarter.
Parklane went on a 7-0 to take a 15-11 lead and pushed it out to 23-15 at halftime.
After going up 29-19, the Pioneers saw Starkville Academy take the 30-29 lead on a bucket by Merchant.
Spencer Remley hit a 3-pointer to give Parklane a 32-30 advantage after the third quarter and even though they were able to tie the game on three occasions in the fourth quarter, the Vols couldn't get the lead back.
Alexander said SA has put together a string of strong showings since a tough loss to Pillow at home one week ago.
"We struggled really bad in the Pillow game and I benched the starters, then we got blown out," Alexander said. "Ever since then, we could have easily won at Oak Hill, but lost at the last second, we went to East Rankin, missed nine free throws and lost by 10 against the No. 3 team in the state and competed with them. We came in here against a very good team and they blew us out in the first game."
Minor led the Vols with 14 points and got 10 points out of Merchant, which Alexander was happy to see.
"That's the best game I've seen Caleb play," Alexander said. "It was huge for him to play that way. He's the most athletic guy we have on the team. He can run faster and jump higher. I've been trying to find him some playing time and (Friday night) he stepped up big."
SA's junior varsity boys defeated Parklane 48-39 behind the 21 points of Brandon Lane. David Moore added 10 points for the Vols.
Starkville Academy 56,
Parklane Academy 23
Starkville Academy's girls are one more win away from accomplishing one of their goals.
By beating Parklane, the Lady Vols improved their record to 11-0 at home with one game to play.
Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt said the team wants to complete that run when it hosts Heritage next Tuesday night.
"It's the girl's goal is to wrap that up on senior night," Schmidt said. "Although it's not a conference game, I know they want to go out undefeated on this home floor."
Against the Lady Pioneers, the Lady Vols jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter and never looked back.
Starkville Academy, which improved to 26-3 overall, held an 18-4 advantage after the first quarter, then expanded it to 34-12 at halftime.
"We got off to a good start and we are working a little bit on extending our defense and of course that was good at first," Schmidt said. "We had two presses we were using and that looked pretty good, but we just came out real sharp.
"When we come out sharp like that, we build on it. We had defensive energy and (Anna) Prestridge had energy and everybody that played did a great job. We were very aggressive."
Anna Lea Little scored 17 points to lead the Lady Vols, while Sallie Kate Richardson added 14 points and Prestridge chipped in 10 points.
SA shot 44 percent from the field (21-of-48) and out-rebounded Parklane 25-14.
The junior varsity Lady Vols won a 26-13 decision against the Lady Pioneers. Hannah Huddleston scored in double figures with 10 points.
The SA teams travel to Hattiesburg today for games at Presbyterian Christian.
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