By JAMES CARSKADON
For the Daily News
Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt knew her team faced a tough task coming into Saturday’s game with Pillow Academy, a team that had already beaten the Lady Vols once this season.
The Lady Mustangs prevailed again, holding off a Starkville Academy rally to win 46-34, dropping the Lady Volunteers’ record to 8-8 for the season.
“We could get close every now and then, but they would turn it on,” Schmidt said. “They’re so physically strong that they’re physical strength hurt us. We couldn’t shoot over it, we couldn’t pass around it, and we could hardly rebound over it.”
Starkville Academy fell into an early 14-5 deficit as they tried to adjust to the full-court pressure applied by the Lady Mustangs, but in the second quarter the Lady Vols’ own defensive pressure put them back in the game. Starkville Academy only allowed on field goal in the second quarter, and pulled within one point of the lead at 17-16 by halftime. Junior Anna Prestridge’s eight first half points paced the Lady Volunteers offensively.
Pillow Academy adjusted to the Volunteer defense at halftime and started the third quarter on a 9-0 run to go ahead 26-16. By the opening moments of the fourth quarter, the Lady Volunteers pulled within two at 32-30 after Nora Kathryn Carroll scored off an assist from Prestridge.
From that point, it was all Pillow. The Lady Mustangs went on an 8-0 run to extend their lead, and when it was time to ice the game with free throws, Pillow responded by making six-of-six free-throw attempts in the final 2 minutes.
The Lady Volunteers struggled with free throws, making only one of six attempts. However, Schmidt said that her team needs to fix the problem of getting to the line more than the shooting itself.
“What we need to work on about free throws is getting more of them,” Schmidt said. “It’s not their effort, we’re not aggressive enough on the boards to get to the line. We don’t get offensive rebounds when we need too, and the offensive rebound is what gets you to the free-throw line.”
Despite the loss, Saturday’s game was viewed as an improvement for Schmidt as her team prepares for its final two games of the semester.
“That kind of pressure, practicing and playing against, is what makes you better," Schmidt said.
Prestridge lead the Lady Vols with 12 points, while Anna Lea Little and Sallie Kate Richardson both had seven points.
Starkville Academy 60,
Pillow Academy 47
After keeping up with Pillow for most of the first half, Starkville Academy caught the turnover bug in the second half and lost to the Mustangs.
Behind 20 points from Jaquez Taylor and 16 points from Sam Shipley, Pillow cruised to a victory, dropping first-year head coach Chris Lyle’s Volunteer squad to 4-8 this season.
“(It) was a tale of two halves,” Lyle said. “The first half we came out with a lot of toughness, a lot of grit, a lot of determination. Defensively, we had a lot more intensity, a lot more energy. Second half, we just couldn’t hit shots.”
With J.R. Gerhart and Austin Marsh finding a rhythm on offense, the Volunteers only trailed by three at the half at 29-26. The Vols’ only lead of the game came early in the second quarter when they lead 14-13, but the Mustangs quickly took the lead back on the next possession.
A 15-3 Mustang run in the third quarter put Pillow comfortably ahead, 49-32 at the end of the third period. Pillow kept the Volunteers at bay in the fourth quarter and held on for the win.
Gerhart lead Starkville Academy with 19 points, while Marsh had eight. While Marsh and Gerhart are consistent scorers, Lyle is hoping to see more consistency from the other players on his roster.
“We’ve got to get some other guys to play consistently on a game-to-game basis,” Lyle said. “We’ve got a couple of them that will give us something one game and then the next game they disappear.”
Lyle also noted that the turnovers that hurt the team in the second half were a major disruption to the tempo his team was trying to achieve.
“They had some easy transition buckets and fast-break points,” Lyle said. “When you’re trying to play a one possession at a time game, you can’t do that.”
Both Volunteer squads will back in action next Friday when they host Magnolia Heights, starting with the junior high at 2 p.m.