By JAMES CARSKADON
For the Daily News
Chris Lyle’s Starkville Academy squad came from behind to snag a 81-80 victory from East Rankin in a double overtime thriller Tuesday night.
The Patriots had a chance to win the game at the buzzer of the second OT, but the shot bounced off the rim, sending the Volunteer bench and fans into a frenzy.
“It was a roller coaster ride, but one that was a fun ending for sure,” Lyle said.
Austin Kinard led the Volunteers with 23 points, while senior point guard J.R. Gerhart had 22 before fouling out early in the first overtime.
The Vols faced a seven-point deficit at the half 28-35, but rallied back to tie the game on an Austin Marsh three-pointer with just over a minute left in the third quarter. The third quarter ended with the teams knotted at 46-46.
The game remained close throughout the fourth quarter as Kyle Lomen and Kinard continued to knock down three-point shots. SA extended the lead to 64-57 with 3 minutes left, but the Patriots rallied to send the game into overtime.
One overtime wasn’t enough for the teams as East Rankin missed a go ahead shot at the buzzer, sending the game to a second overtime tied at 72. However, Gerhart fouled out at the 1:57 mark, leading the Vols without their starting point guard.
Kinard took over the second overtime, scoring six points, while senior Patrick Jones put the Vols ahead 81-80 with a free throw with 39 seconds left.
East Rankin guard Tyler Madden had an opportunity to give the Patriots a tie or the lead with two free throw shots, but both bounced off the rim. East Rankin got the ball back with 11 seconds left and down one point, but they were unable to score on the game’s final possession.
The win improved the Volunteer’s record to 8-17, and Lyle believes his team is starting to heat up at the right time.
“I think before we were speaking Spanish and they were hearing French, but now we’re on the same page and understanding as a team what it’s all about,” Lyle said. “I really feel that come tournament time we’re gonna be tough to beat.”
Coming off the bench, Lomen scored 15 for the points for the Volunteers. Center Adam Crittenden was also in double figures with 11 points. East Rankin’s Tyler Rhodes led all scorers with 26 points.
Lyle also lauded the play of senior Patrick Jones, who had eight points and helped lead the team in Gerhart’s absence in overtime.
“We were hitting big shot after big shot,” Jones said. “We just came out and won the game tonight.”
For a program that has seen its fair share of losses, Tuesday’s win marked a key learning point for Lyle’s team.
“They’re starting to learn how to win, and that is what is amazing to me,” Lyle said as fans cheered for players as they exited the locker room. “We’re getting closer and closer to getting over the top and really starting to see some big-time basketball.”
Starkville Academy 54,
East Rankin 41
Lady Vols head coach Glenn Schmidt was not surprised to see her team come out flat in the first half after winning two big conference games over the weekend. What did surprise her was the way her team played in the second half of their win over East Rankin.
Starkville Academy’s offense sputtered through the first half, leaving them in a 25-17 hole to start the third quarter. From there, freshman Sallie Kate Richardson and Nora Kathryn Carroll took over as the Lady Vols outscored the Lady Patriots 37-16 the rest of the way.
“We had two big wins over the weekend, and when I saw us, I thought we were gonna be flat, but they played themselves out of it in the third quarter,” Schmidt said.
The Lady Vols held a sizeable advantage on the boards, out-rebounding East Rankin 42-18. SA also made 11 of its 16 free throws, which helped ice the game in the fourth quarter.
For Schmidt, the stars of the show were her two freshmen, Richardson and Carroll. Richardson notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Carroll had 12 points and eight rebounds.
“I’ve been watching them play since about the fourth or fifth grade,” Schmidt said. “We knew a while back that if they bought into basketball and really liked it, that they were gonna be special one day… Three more years will be exciting to watch.”
Schmidt also praised the work of Julianne Jackson, who had two old-fashioned three-point plays and 10 rebounds.
The victory improves the Lady Vols’ record to 16-12 on the season.
The Volunteers will be back in action on Friday when they travel to Magnolia Heights, and at home Saturday against Clarksdale-Lee.