CLINTON – The Starkville Academy girls' basketball team made history Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Volunteers beat Madison-Ridgeland 50-39 for the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Overall Championship on the campus of Mississippi College inside A.E. Wood Coliseum.
It is their third state title in as many weeks, as they won the Class AAA, Division II title and the Class AAA title.
"I really am speechless," Starkville Academy head coach Glenn Schmidt said. "I am so proud for our youngsters, our fans and our school."
Midway through the fourth quarter, MRA held a 37-36 lead. Sophomore Sallie Kate Richardson made a basket to give the Lady Vols back the lead for good.
"I was just glad we weren't down 14,10 or 12," Schmidt said. "(MRA) tried to win the game. They had some players take over and try to win the game. That's why they got ahead."
Junior Tiffany Huddleston rattled off eight straight points to give SA a comfortable lead.
"I guess when I started going it was an exciting thing," Huddleston said. "I wasn't thinking I was about to score eight points. I think it was momentum catching us."
The Lady Vols entered the fourth quarter trailing 33-32. SA made four quick points to take the lead back.
"You know how good they are and how well coached they are," Schmidt said. "I think at some point late in the third quarter, we did what we've been doing. We said we are not going to lose this. They made some adjustments in their defense in the third quarter to pressure Anna Prestridge. When they put that pressure on us, we got a little out of our offense routine, but it didn't take long. We got over it. I think the defense down the stretch was huge."
A week ago, the Lady Vols and Lady Patriots were squaring off for the Class AAA state championship, and Richardson was shouldering the load in the post.
"The way people play us, we are going to have to go inside," Schmidt said. "I hate it for her because the weight's on her shoulders for awhile. The rest of the group knows there's some pressure on her and they are hoping for her and believing in her."
Richardson usually has a height advantage on her counter part, but MRA's Amber Landing is eye level with her.
"She handled it well," Huddleston said. "She is usually the tallest one out there, but that girl had some size on her. I'm sure it was a little tougher, but she handled it."
Senior point guard Anna Prestridge once again led the defense. She hassled MRA's point guard and made it hard for her to set up the Lady Patriot offense.
"She is our point guard," sophomore Nora Kathryn Carroll said. "She is our main leader. Whenever she gets pumped up and plays good defense, then we all get pumped up."
Prestridge knows what her role on the team has been this year and doesn't mind it.
"I have always been focused on defense," Prestridge said. "It is one of my strong (qualities) I think. I just try to keep her in front of me and do the best that I can to defend her and not let her score."
The Lady Vols started early and exited the first quarter with a 16-6 lead. MRA went on a 10-0 run midway through the second quarter to cut the led to 18-16.
SA responded with a 6-0 run right before the half to take a 24-16 lead.
Carroll finally found her shot scoring eight points, with six of those coming from behind the 3-point line.
"I was worried because I know I haven't been hitting any lately," Carroll said. "It felt really good to hit some today and help my teammates out."
Richardson, Huddleston, Carroll and Anna Lea Little were all chosen to the All-Tournament team.
"It's hard to single anybody out," Schmidt said. "I think that's probably why we have been able to do this. It has been somebody different every game."
For Little, it was her third time to be chosen to an All-Tournament Team in the past three weeks.
"I'm just glad we won," Little said. "It feels good but it's all about the team right now. We all pitched in and won this championship."
For Prestridge and the rest of the seniors, it was a great way to cap their final year at SA.
"It feels amazing," Prestridge said. "It's the best thing that could ever happen our senior year."
MRA was led by Haley Cox with 18 points. Anna Claire Henderson added 10 points.
Richardson and Huddleston each had 12 points to lead the Lady Volunteers. Little had 11 points.
SA finished the year with a 38-5 record.