It will be an extra special night for a trio of Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers.
As Anna Lea Little, Maggie Proffitt and Tiffany Huddleston step onto the court tonight, it will be the last time for all three players to compete on the Starkville Academy hardwood.
A bittersweet moment for the trio, but one that Huddleston says you ”just have to play through," while Little comments that the night will be “weird, but exciting at the same time” and no matter what she is “just trying to enjoy it and savor the moment.”
Even Starkville Academy girls coach Glenn Schmidt used the word "bittersweet" when describing what tonight would be like.
"We're happy because its senior night, but were sad because we won't have them on the court again," Schmidt said. "The three of them together have individual skills, but combined they have so much chemistry and play so well as a team.
"Tiffany has been the spark. She came off the bench so many times last year and now as a senior she has sparked us so many times. Anna Lea has been here since sophomore year. She really fit in and improved her overall game so much. Maggie came to us last year and you have concerns sometime when one a player comes in for one year, but Maggie fit in so well in school and on the team. She is a special player and possesses exceptional basketball skills."
The girls’ excitement that comes with tonight’s game has been brewing for awhile and is the culmination of many games and hours spent devoted to basketball. They are hours that all three girls say have been worth it and have only added to the fun of playing the game together.
“It’s been a great ride and it’s been fun,” Little said. “We have great team chemistry.”
Huddleston agrees with her teammate on the fun aspect, but also expressed how much her senior counterparts have enhanced Starkville Academy basketball.
“This is my fourth year to play varsity basketball so it’s been a lot of hard work put into it so it’s an exciting to have one last time to play in the gym,” Huddleston said. “Last year was my first year to play with Anna Lea. It’s been fun having her on the team last year and this year.
“Maggie is definitely a great addition to the team. The team is able to do a lot more with them. They are two different players, but they are both offensive-minded and it’s really opened up the floor for us.”
This is the first season for Proffitt to play for the Lady Vols, but the senior quickly adjusted to life at Starkville Academy and has thoroughly enjoyed the time with her teammates.
“I have loved it,” Proffitt said. “Ever since I came this summer, they were very accepting and it’s just been really easy coming in and playing. It is really fun having three seniors on the floor who are experienced and know how to play.”
Proffitt commented on the girls’ experience and ability to compete and judging by their statistics she was more than accurate on just how well the trio knows how to play.
On a team that is shooting 45.4 percent, all three girls are among the top five on the team and each one is hovering right around the 50 percent shooting margin with Proffitt leading the way at 56 percent and averaging 17.7 points per game. Little and Huddleston are right behind her averaging 11.3 and 8.4 respectively.
As point guard, Huddleston leads the team in assists as she averages 3.2 per game.
“I’ve always liked point guard,” Huddleston said. “It’s my favorite as far as basketball goes. I like being able to see the floor. It’s not so much about calling the shots, but you do get to have a lot of control over the game.”
Scoring is not the only shining moment for the girls as each contributes multiple rebounds per game with Little leading the way at 6.2.
The girls’ success on the court is the result of their individual hard work, but there is one more component to the Lady Vols’ game and that is their coach Glenn Schmidt. A coach that each girl says encourages them to give their all each time they step onto the court.
“(Schmidt) is definitely a motivator and pusher,” Proffitt said. “She wants 100 percent all the time no matter what. She is definitely a good coach and I’ve liked playing for her a lot.”
Little echoed her teammate adding that Schmidt “just wants the best out of every player she coaches.”
Huddleston agreed, calling her coach a “motivator.”
“(Schmidt) definitely expects the best out of us,” Huddleston said. “Not just in basketball, but in every area of life, so she is definitely like a driver for us all.”
That drive for hard work instilled by their coach has placed the Lady Vols in the position of standing 33-0 and looking to repeat as state champions, but the girls are careful not to overlook any game, including tonight’s game with Jackson Academy.
“I think it is kind of understood by everyone that we want to win a championship, but we have to just focus on one game at a time and not try to overlook anyone that we play,” Little said.
The trio may take that immediate focus to heart, but all three definitely have bright futures ahead of them on the college level.
While Proffitt and Little will be continuing their basketball careers at Central Arkansas and Arkansas Tech, respectively, Huddleston will be staying in Starkville to play soccer for Mississippi State University.
Yes, as one chapter ends for the girls, one more is opening and each one is looking forward to what the future holds.
“It’s really exciting because I’ve been working for it since 7th grade,” Little said. “I made up my mind that I wanted to see that goal realized, so it’s very exciting to be moving to the next level.”
Proffitt said there has been a bond between the three girls and will be "sad" to see their time end on the court. She is excited to be moving on to the next level.
For Huddleston, basketball has been a big part of her life over the past few years, but is excited to play soccer in college.
There is some unfinished business to take care of first.
"I still have a little over a month to finish out basketball," Huddleston said.