The Starkville Academy Volunteers have developed a bond and when someone in the circle hurts, they all do.
One particular Lady Volunteer was playing with a heavy heart against Pillow Academy Thursday night as sophomore forward Janiece Pigg lost her father Jason earlier in the day.
Despite the emotion that comes with the death of a parent, Janiece came out to play inspired basketball and contributed to Starkville Academy's 57-20 victory.
Pigg led the Lady Vols with nine rebounds, scored four points and blocked a shot in 32 minutes of play.
"Janiece had a great game," Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt said. "She's all over the floor and diving for the ball. It's very obvious that she was motivated to play.
"I think she has relieved a lot of stress. Her mom and grandmother were here. This was probably a great night for them to enjoy a game and see her play so well."
The Lady Vols rallied around Pigg and fed off of her energy.
Schmidt was proud to see the team come out and perform when one of its own was hurting.
"Girls, and guys do to, but they become so close to their team," Schmidt said. "Your team becomes your family. I was so glad that she and the rest of the sophomores came on. I think they were inspired to play for Janiece (Thursday night)."
The Lady Mustangs never really challenged the home team after the early moments of the game.
After Tiffany Huddleston had a basket and Anna Lea Little made a 3-point field goal to put SA up 5-0, Pillow broke scoring ice to close the gap to 5-2.
Little hit back-to-back buckets to increase the advantage to 9-2 for the Lady Vols.
Even though the Lady Mustangs scored the next three points to cut the margin to 9-5, Starkville Academy were not rattled and went on a 6-0 run to go up 15-5.
The Lady Vols held a 36-10 lead at halftime behind the 14 points of Little.
"I thought Anna Lea Little started the game playing great basketball," Schmidt said. "Her whole floor game was great. She was rebounding, passing well and hitting her shots.
"Tiffany is going to scratch and claw the first 2 or 3 minutes of a game and get everyone all fired up and ready to go. Of course Nora (Kathryn Carroll) is in there hustling and Sallie Kate (Richardson). Our kids are coming out and playing the first 5 minutes of the game like they intend to give you trouble and it's a pleasure to watch them come out that hard and play so well together. My hat is off to the seniors for making that happen. I'm sure they had a lot to do with it."
Little led SA with 17 points and Richardson also scored in double digits with 12 points.
Once again Schmidt was able to play her bench, but sophomore Anna McKell suffered an injury and possibly to her collarbone.
After improving to 15-0, the Lady Vols are right back on the court the next two days at the Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational. They play Noxubee County at 3 p.m. today, then take on Provine at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"I'm very excited about going to Columbus to play," Schmidt said. "We talked with (Columbus boys) coach (Sammy) Smith about it last year and just couldn't work it out. He invited us and it's going to be a different level with the type of competition. We do play public schools and some during the year, but to play the three back-to-back games like this and (Noxubee County and Provine) being two of them will give us a big test.
"I remember back during the old days at Starkville High School that Noxubee County was a worry and you knew when you played Noxubee County that you would have your hands full."
Prior to playing Provine on Saturday, Schmidt said the Lady Vols will attend the funeral for Jason Pigg as a team and continue to support Janiece.
"My team right now is more concerned about Janiece Pigg rather than basketball right now," Schmidt said.