By JOEL COLEMAN
If ever there was a moral victory, the Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers may have notched one Thursday night while hosting Jackson Academy.
They came oh so close to getting much more.
SA took the defending Class AAA-I state champions into overtime, but ended up dropping a 43-36 decision to the Lady Raiders.
"I just thought it was a great game for us, although we lost it," said SA head coach Glenn Schmidt. "We did a lot of things right except we just didn't win the game. I'm so pleased we came out that intent, that aggressive and that confident."
The Lady Vols (4-4) might have found themselves celebrating a win if not for an early scoring slump that left them battling from behind for much of the game.
Jackson Academy (3-0) scored 10 unanswered points to close out the first quarter, putting SA in a 10-3 hole.
Starkville Academy wouldn't reclaim the lead until Julianne Jackson's bucket late in the third quarter.
After battling back and forth for the remainder of regulation, the Lady Raiders picked up a pair of clutch fourth quarter free throws from Mollie Blair that tied the game at 33 and forced extra basketball.
"At the end of (regulation), it's 33-33," said Schmidt. "That's as close to a win as you can get. Then we just kind of gave out. I don't think it was physically, I think it was emotionally."
The Lady Raiders outscored SA 10-3 in the extra period. Keying their overtime domination was the play of Dasha Tsema who picked up several key rebounds.
"That was the key to the whole game," said Schmidt. "We couldn't keep her off the boards."
Jackson Academy head coach Jan Sojourner said after that she's sure Schmidt will use Tsema's rebounding display as a teaching opportunity for the Lady Vols.
"I can't imagine that would happen to them again," said Sojourner. "(Schmidt) won't let that happen."
Aside from her overtime boards, Tsema finished with a game-high 16 points.
Nora Kathryn Carroll's 11 points led the Lady Vols in defeat.
Even though her team was unable to come out on top, Schmidt says Thursday's game is just another indicator of how talented her team is.
"When I'm looking at the big picture, we have just one returning starter," said Schmidt. "We're playing eight girls. We are very, very young, and they gave us a great opportunity against a great basketball team."
Sojourner gives a lot of that credit to Schmidt.
"(SA) is so well-coached," said Sojourner. "They play hard and have such a nice, young team. They have so much to look forward to. Every game, they are just going to get better and better and they'll be something to reckon with by the time postseason play comes around. Nobody's going to want to play them."
In the nightcap, the Vols lost a 66-35 decision to the Raiders.
J.R. Gerhart was the only player for Starkville Academy (2-3) to score in double figures with 17 points.
The Vols and Lady Vols travel to Leake Academy on Saturday.