By JOEL COLEMAN
Starkville Academy girls basketball coach Glenn Schmidt learned Tuesday night that her Lady Volunteers have an important attribute – they can win games even when things don't go their way.
Facing a stout Jackson Academy defense, SA found a way to post a 44-42 win.
It was a victory that never could have happened without the Lady Vols' displaying their ability to adapt.
"(Jackson Academy) was the most physical and most aggressive defense that we'll face all year," said Schmidt. "And I don't mean aggressive like they were beating us up our fouling us. I'm just talking about legitimate, solid defense.
"It took us out of a lot of things that we wanted to do. It took us out of our outside game. We struggled to score at times, but we made the baskets when we had to."
Sallie Kate Richardson posted a double-double for Starkville Academy, scoring 17 points and hauling in 10 rebounds.
Tiffany Huddleston added 13 points for the Lady Volunteers.
Mollie Blair led Jackson Academy with 20 points.
Dasha Tsema put up 18 for the Lady Raiders.
Perhaps the game's most important statistic according to Schmidt however was SA's edge on the boards.
The Lady Vols out-rebounded the Lady Raiders 26-21.
"That was big," said Schmidt. "We knew we had to out-rebound them to win."
The game was tight throughout. Jackson Academy led 16-15 after the first quarter before Starkville Academy responded to take a 25-21 lead by halftime.
The Lady Vols saw their lead shrink to one at 33-32 heading into the fourth quarter before holding on for the win.
"A lot of the game happened at the end of it," said Schmidt. "Our best play was at the end of the game, doing exactly what we needed to do to win."
The victory pushed Starkville Academy to 7-0 for the season.
The Lady Vols will try and keep rolling Thursday when they host Jackson Prep.
Schmidt believes, after what her team learned Tuesday, the Lady Vols will be prepared for the challenge Prep presents.
"A lot of times, when you play a team like (Jackson Academy) some of your weaknesses are exposed," said Schmidt. "So it was really good for us to see some of the things we need to work on. But we won the game, so I can't talk about weaknesses too much. I'm just proud of the girls for winning.
"It's not going to get any easier for us though with Jackson Prep coming in Thursday. They are very physical and very good."
Jackson Academy 54,
Starkville Academy 48
Jackson Academy's Matthew McMullan scored a team-high 16 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 1:15 remaining to send Starkville Academy to its first loss of the season.
The Volunteers dropped to 3-1 overall for the season, despite a 16-point performance from Calvin Young, a 14-point night for Austin Kinard and Carnail Minor's 11 points.
SA head coach Mark Alexander said he was pleased with the way his team performed, despite the outcome.
"We gave it everything we had and had a shot to win it at the end," said Alexander. "We were right there and had a great shot to win it.
"Against MRA (last Tuesday) we were able to make the plays down the stretch and pull it out. It was just the opposite against (Jackson Academy). They made all the plays. You've got to give them all the credit."
After a tight first three quarters, the Vols and Raiders actually entered the fourth quarter tied 39-39.
With 2:57 to play, SA jumped out to a 48-45 advantage.
The Vols didn't score again.
Jackson Academy ripped off nine unanswered points to turn away SA.
"It was a good team stepping up making plays," said Alexander.
Even with the loss, Alexander believes the Vols still had plenty to be proud of.
"When you go through the line at the end of the game...(Jackson Academy) knew they had a game," Alexander said. "Their coach told us we've got a good team.
"That lets you know as a coach, we're right there. We're starting off with MRA, JA and Prep. We're 1-1 right now in those games and could easily be 2-0. So even though we lost, it should be a confidence builder that we can play with these teams."
SA will return to action Thursday hosting Jackson Prep.