Starkville Academy boys basketball coach Mark Alexander hasn't been the only one to notice that his team has played well down the stretch of the season.
After last Friday's 50-44 loss to Jackson Academy, someone confirmed Alexander's belief.
"One of (Jackson Academy's) fans, I don't even know who it was, said, 'Coach, I just want to tell you that we know your record and saw you warming up. We thought it would be a blowout, but our hats off to your kids because they play hard,' and that's a credit to the guys.
"It's all about them competing and playing hard. They know that's how we have to play to win and they deserve a lot of credit for competing the way we have. We just keep coming up a little bit short."
The Volunteers have another opportunity today at the Division II-AAA State Tournament against Washington School. The tip at Heritage Academy in Columbus is set for 5:15 p.m.
Alexander saw SA play one of its best games to close the regular season against Jackson Academy and that was without three of its best players in Carnail Minor, Calvin Young and Brandon Sharp.
"We go to JA on its senior night and got beat by six," Alexander said. "We've lost seven games by six or fewer points. There have been some games where we've been blown out, but ever since that Pillow game, we've played extremely well with the exception of the Prep game."
Beating Washington School won't be an easy task for the Vols. The Generals sport a 20-5 record and a top five ranking.
Starkville Academy has not played Washington this season, but Alexander is familiar with the Generals.
"I actually played them two times last year when I was at Manchester and it's all the same guys," Alexander said. "I talked with four or five coaches and got a couple of tapes.
"Our biggest concern is stopping Washington because they've got guys who can score. They are really good on offense and can shoot the ball well so we'll have our hands full."
Once again the Vols will be without the services of Young and Sharp, who were lost earlier this season to injuries, while Minor won't play again because of medical reasons.
Even though the challenge will be more difficult without those three players for SA, Alexander said it will plan to go across the river and give another good effort.
"You are not going to reinvent the wheel at this point," Alexander said. "We're just going to do what we've been doing, be methodical on offense, run time off the clock and try to get after them on defense."