Defense wins championships.
That may be a simple statement, but it's very true when describing the style of play that makes the Starkville Lady Volunteers successful on the basketball court.
It's safe to say that the Lady Vols wouldn't be where they are today if it hadn't been for a strong defensive game.
Starkville Academy was very dominant in Columbus this week on the campus of Heritage Academy as it won the Division 2-AAA State Championship.
It was a series of impressive victories that began Wednesday against Magnolia Heights 72-28, then continued Friday against Hillcrest Christian 51-36 and was climaxed Saturday against East Rankin Academy 61-35.
The Lady Vols held their three opponents last week to a combined 99 points.
East Rankin could only manage 10 points against Starkville Academy in the first half and coach Michael McAnally said the Lady Vols did a "great job" of taking away the strengths of his Lady Patriots.
"Their athleticism allows them to switch a lot of screens and not have the matchup troubles that other teams might have," McAnally said. "They made it tough for us to get baskets. You don't see teams that switch screens like that. They've got a great ballclub and are certainly a favorite to win next week. The best team won this tournament, no doubt about it."
McAnally said SA has the perfect coach to run its defense in Glenn Schmidt.
A strong defense has been an ingredient for Schmidt's best teams over the years and was a reason the Starkville Lady Yellowjackets won a state championship in 1992 under her direction.
"If you look at every coaches manual or handbook, it will say you've got to play defense and rebound first," Schmidt said. "It helps to be able to score. I'm not going to minimize that at all. We've got some offensive people that can score and that helps."
One player that bought into Schmidt's defensive philosophy over the last couple of years is point guard Anna Prestridge.
Prestridge transferred from Parklane Academy and didn't have a great deal of time to learn the system.
She has developed into one of the best point guards in Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and it's not because of her scoring, even though she can, but it's her willingness to put it on the line with her defense.
"Anna Prestridge is what every team needs defensively to keep everybody moving and alert," Schmidt said.
Playing strong defense in a game doesn't just happen. It takes many days of work.
Prestridge says a Lady Vols' practice centers around defense.
"We run a lot of defensive drills," Prestridge said. "We're always about defense, defense, defense. If you play good defense, you always have a chance to win."
It was nice to see Starkville Academy celebrate the first state championship for girls basketball in school history.
Schmidt was able to get her second personally, exactly 20 years from when she won one at SHS.
As expected, she wasn't about to take credit.
"It's not about me. It's about (the players)," Schmidt said. "They do the work and I get to watch."
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.
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