By JOEL COLEMAN
The Starkville Academy Volunteers couldn't overcome scoring contributions from 14 different Hillcrest players in a 75-44 loss to the Cougars.
The Vols led just once in the contest, following a J.R. Gerhart 3-pointer early in the first quarter that gave SA a brief 5-4 advantage.
Gerhart scored a team-high 11 points for SA.
"You've got to give (Hillcrest's) coaching staff credit," said Vols head coach Chris Lyle. "They came out, executed very well, knocked down shots, and got after us on defense. I felt like we matched their intensity in the first quarter, then in the second quarter, we did some different things and adjusted to what they were doing. Sometimes though, it's not so much what you're doing as what the other team is doing."
Hillcrest's Preston Haynes led the Cougars in scoring with 21 points.
Hillcrest improves to 2-0 with the win, while SA falls to 1-2.
The Vols were outscored in every quarter by Hillcrest.
The Cougars held a 21-10 lead after the first period and a 44-23 advantage at halftime before heading to the fourth quarter up 63-34.
"We're trying to build a program," said Lyle. "After the season that these guys had last year, sometimes it's tough. One thing you can always preach and teach is don't ever quit and don't ever give up, and I don't think we did. If we continue to play hard and play a little smarter and better, we're going to improve and get better."
One challenge that now faces Lyle moving forward is helping his team overcome back-to-back early season losses after also falling to Jackson Prep on Tuesday.
"You're always going to have some bumps in the road and that's how we're going to look at it," said Lyle. "We're not going to get down in the dumps or feel sorry for ourselves. We're going to look at the film, see where we made our mistakes and correct those, I'm going to have to do a better job of coaching, and we'll come back Tuesday and be ready to play Indianola."
Before SA takes the court again, Lyle hopes to take steps to improve the Vols defense.
"We've had some breakdowns and some missed assignments," said Lyle. "That happens. We have seven seniors, but we're a very inexperienced team. A lot of these guys are playing high school basketball for the first time. Plus, I'm trying to put a system in, so there is a lot of teaching still going on. So defensively, right now, we're just not doing our job. We've just got to own up, make ourselves accountable and go back to the drawing board to make sure we give a little more effort."
Ultimately, Lyle believes his team just needs to get back to the basics of minimizing turnovers, playing good defense, and the like.
If the Vols can do that, SA's first-year leader believes his team will see progress.
"Basketball is a simple game," said Lyle. "Some people try to complicate it, but it really boils down to those things. We're just trying to stay as positive as we can be. We're going to be fine."