Alpe's defense on Pace key for Lady Vols in win

Starkville Academy's A'Johnah Baker, right, is defended by Canton Academy's Cate Simpson.

Sports Editor

Lillee Alpe didn't have time to think about the two free throws she had missed for the Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers earlier in the second half.

She still had to take care of the defensive end and guard Canton Academy's best offensive player Betsy Pace.

Alpe may not have had one of her best offensive outings for the Lady Vols, only scoring five points, but she did not let it hurt her defense.

Even though Pace scored 19 points for the game, Alpe locked down on her in the second half and kept her from being the difference.

Alpe was rewarded with another chance at the free-throw line also with 21.1 seconds left in the game and knocked down two big shots in Starkville Academy's 33-30 victory Friday night at home.

"I knew I had to step up and make the free throws when I had to," Alpe said.

Coach Bruce Allsup was pleased with the defensive effort from the Lady Vols, especially what Alpe was able to do against Pace.

"I thought our defensive effort was really, really good," Allsup said. "They've got one of the better players in the state. She's really a great offensively player and Lillee did a good job of shutting her down."

After Pace scored the first 11 points for the Lady Panthers, she only had eight more in the second half.

Alpe knew it wouldn't be an easy task keeping up with Pace.

"She is a good player and that put the pressure on me defensively," Alpe said.

Starkville Academy held a 15-13 lead at halftime, but Meri Laci Archer scored nine of her team-high 13 points in the third quarter to stretch the advantage to 27-16.

Canton Academy rallied down the stretch and Pace hit a shot to cut the margin to 29-27.

That's when Alpe got another chance at the charity stripe. She hit both attempts to put the Lady Vols up 31-27.

Allsup was happy to see his sophomore respond to adversity after missing the mark earlier in the game.

"You never know how that's going to get in somebody's head," Allsup said. "It was good to see her come back, bounce back and make those."

Mary Peyton Passons provided a little insurance with two free throws of her own in the closing seconds to give Starkville Academy the three-point win.

"This will look like a three-point win or a 20-point win," Allsup said. "It all counts in the W column. I was proud of the way we were able to hold on to win. We just couldn't get going offensively. I don't know if playing last night had our legs gone or what, but we just didn't shoot the ball well or as well as we are capable of shooting it."

Along with Archer's points or the Lady Vols, Passons also scored in double digits with 11 points.

Starkville Academy improved its records to 15-7 overall and 2-2 in District 2-AAA.