The Starkville Academy Volunteers and Heritage Patriots had become quite familiar with each other by the time the regular season concluded.
As division rivals, the two teams faced each other three times in as many weeks during the regular season and beginning tonight at 5:15 p.m., it will tip one more time in the first round of the Class AAA, Division II playoffs.
Starkville Academy coach Mark Alexander knows that even with the privilege of having faced the Patriots multiple times, this is the playoffs and anything is possible.
“There's not going to be any secrets between the two teams,” Alexander said. “We are looking forward to it. The first two times we played them, they were close games and we were very fortunate to win both those games. I wouldn’t expect anything less out of this game. I expect it to come right down to the end. This is just a little different because you lose this one and you are done.”
Standing at 15-14 following the completion of regular season play, the Volunteers are looking forward to wiping the slate clean and beginning a new season. In order to do so, the team will have to put a recent loss to Jackson Academy behind it and focus on playing its best basketball.
“We had a tough game against Jackson Academy the last game, but like we talked about this afternoon everyone is 0-0 at this point," Alexander said. "It’s a new season. Those first two games against Heritage don’t mean a thing and looking at it, we have just as good a chance in Division II as anybody else of winning it, so that is how we have to approach it.”
With a win tonight, Starkville Academy moves forward to face the winner of Magnolia Heights and Copiah Academy who play Wednesday. Should the Volunteers escape the second round contest, they will play at 7:15 p.m. Saturday for the Class AAA, Division II championship and a spot in the Class AAA tournament.