Anna Lea Little, left, scored 12 points to lead Starkville Academy on Friday. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
COLUMBUS â€“ Starkville Academy girls basketball coach Glenn Schmidt was concerned about facing an opponent for the third time this season.
After dropping the first two games to the Lady Vols, the Hillcrest Christian Lady Cougars found out Friday that the third time was not the charm in this case.
Starkville Academy beat Hillcrest Christian 51-36 in a semifinal game in the Class AAA, Division II State Tournament at Heritage Academy Gymnasium.
The Lady Cougars went to a stall offense to try and keep the ball out of the hands of the Lady Vols. It was something that SA had to adjust to, but did and it was never a factor.
"I thought we did a really good job to adjust to what it was they wanted to do," Schmidt said. "They had a good gameplan. I watched them play Tuesday and they were doing that a lot. I guess to generate some offense. I really didn't think they would come back with it."
Hillcrest Christian led it early at 4-2, but SA went on a 9-0 run to take an 11-4 lead; a lead they did not give up. The Lady Vols ended the first quarter on a 4-0 run to take a 15-5 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Starkville Academy changed its defense scheme after seeing the offense of the Lady Cougars.
"We went to our half-court trap," Schmidt said. "Changed to a zone and it worked. It saved ourselves a little bit. I felt like we needed to save a little energy."
Sophomore Nora Kathryn Carroll and the rest of the Lady Vols stepped up their defense and made it difficult for Hillcrest Christian to find the basket.
"They were trying to hold the ball so we knew we had to step up," Carroll said. "(We needed) pressure so we could get the ball because we knew we needed the ball to score and to win."
Carroll scored 11 points for SA, but she could not find her shot from outside the lane. She decided to go inside and find herself offensively.
"Lately, I have realized that I need to have an inside game," Carroll said. "My outside game is not always going to work so I have to work on inside during practice too."
The Lady Vols entered the fourth quarter with a 40-19 lead. The Lady Cougars did not back down and opened the final frame on a 11-2 run to cut the lead to 12 at 42-30.
Asked if she was nervous in the fourth quarter, Schmidt said no and yes. She was confident her team could win, but was nervous that her team did not realize the full-court pressure Hillcrest used to try and get back in the game.
Hillcrest Christian was led by Christina Berryhill and Kristyn Kliesch with 15 points each.
Anna Lea Little led Starkville Academy with 12 points to go along with Carroll's output.
The Lady Vols, who improved their record to 31-5, play East Rankin Academy today at 2:15 in the championship game.
"We are really excited because we haven't had this opportunity in a long time for Starkville Academy," Carroll said. "It is a really big deal."
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