By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt always speaks well of her junior point guard Anna Prestridge.
Always complimentary of her floor game, Schmidt wouldn't want anyone else running her offense.
On Friday night at the SA gymnasium, Prestridge hit the biggest shot of the game, a three-pointer from the top of the key, to help the Lady Volunteers defeat the Madison-Ridgeland Lady Patriots 49-43.
"I didn't even notice and someone was in my face," Prestridge said of what turned out to be the winning shot. "I just shot it like any other shot. I just thought I'd make it so I took the shot."
The three-pointer by Prestridge started 8-0 run to end the game as Starkville Academy upset the state's top-ranked private school girls team as MRA's record fell to 21-6 overall.
"To beat the top private school in the state, it was a big win for our young girls," Schmidt said. "They really played well. It was a good night for the little ole Lady Vols."
With the Lady Vols trailing 43-41 with 55 seconds left in the game, Prestridge got the basketball at the top of the key. Even though she was guarded, Prestridge had enough separation where she was able to take the shot and made it to give SA the 44-43 advantage.
"Wasn't it big?" Schmidt said. "She's been real patient with herself offensively and struggled a little bit, but she took that three with a whole lot of confidence."
Prestridge added a free throw seconds later for the Lady Vols, then Julianne Jackson had a wide-open look under the basket for two points and Sallie Kate Richardson put the finishing touches on the victory with a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds left.
Richardson and Jackson finished with double-doubles for SA. Richardson had 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jackson added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"Sallie Kate really played aggressive defensively in hitting the boards, then you've got Julianne, who had 11 rebounds and 12 points in her third start ever," Schmidt said.
The key to the game in Schmidt's mind was the rebounding as the Lady Vols out-rebounded the Lady Patriots 37-20.
Starkville Academy did that only working with seven players as Anna Lea Little missed the game with a severe chest cold.
The Lady Vols jumped out to an 8-0 lead on a three-point field goal and a free throw by Nora Kathryn Carroll, a putback by Richardson and a basket by Jackson.
Schmidt said the three-pointer by Carroll, the first of five for SA, was important to set a tone. Carroll finished with 10 points.
"Nora Kathryn hitting that shot gave us a lot of confidence because we know she's going to shoot it and we want her to put it up," Schmidt said.
Madison-Ridgeland Academy didn't get its first point of the game until the 3:22 mark of the first quarter on a free throw by Anna Claire Henderson and the difference remained at five points at the end of the quarter (12-5).
The long range shooting of Carroll and April Burney gave SA continued momentum in the second quarter.
Burney hit a three-pointer with 6:36 left to put the Lady Vols up 15-9, then Carroll hit the first of two from three-point territory in the frame to give SA an 18-11 lead. Carroll hit another to push the advantage to 25-14.
The Lady Vols, who improved to 14-12 overall and 5-6 in the North AAA-Division 1, held a 27-18 lead at halftime.
"It was a win and that makes 14 for us," Schmidt said. "It helps toward making sure we have a winning season, but it's not over yet."
There's no time to celebrate for SA as it gets right back on the court today to take on rival Oak Hill.
As far as Prestridge is concerned, there's no reason to believe the Lady Vols can bring the effort and determination they showed against MRA for the rest of the season.
"With the adrenalin coming after the game, we feel like we can beat anybody," Prestridge said. "In this league right now, it's anybody's game. It's just whoever plays well on that night."
Starkville Academy 57
The Vols may have been dominated on the scoreboard, but coach Chris Lyle saw some things out of his team that he's been looking for all season.
Despite falling to 6-17 overall and 1-10 in the conference, Lyle was proud of the effort that SA put forth.
"I think a lot of things clicked tonight even though the score doesn't indicate that," Lyle said. "We played a style that I was hoping we could play all year long and we had to do some different things. The kids grew up tonight and hit some big shots."
Austin Kinard and Kyle Lomen hit one three-pointer each as the Vols hung tough with the Patriots after the first quarter, only trailing 23-17.
After MRA had jumped out to a 29-18 lead in the second quarter, Starkville Academy closed the gap t0 29-23 on a three-pointer by J.R. Gerhart and a basket by John Michael Robinson.
The Patriots out-scored the Vols 11-6 down the stretch of the first half to go into the intermission with a 40-29 advantage.
MRA took control in the second half, increasing its lead to 62-38 after the third quarter and out-scoring SA 24-19 in the final frame.
Justin Malone, a Mississippi State commitment in football, scored a game-high 30 points for the Patriots.
Crittenden led the Vols with 14 points, while Kinard added 12 points and Gerhart chipped in 10 points.
"The guys don't look like they are scared to shoot," Lyle said. "They look like they got out there and played and that's what we're trying to get these kids to understand. Adam Crittenden hit some jump shots. J.R. Gerhart took care of the basketball as well as I've seen him all year long.
"I'm proud of them. I think from here on out, it's going to be a very joyous ride. We've got a lot of basketball left to be played."
Starkville Academy's boys take on Oak Hill following the girls game this afternoon. Junior high action begins at noon.