STARKVILLE — Whether it was from beyond the three-point line, at the free throw line or of pull-up mid-range variety, Starkville Academy forward Anna Lea Little put on an impressive shooting display.
When he junior found herself open, she rarely missed from the outside leading her Lady Volunteers team to a dominating 60-42 victory Friday night over Hillcrest Christian.
“Anna Lea has shooting a tremendous percentage so we’re starting to ask her to take twice as many shots,” Starkville Academy coach Glenn Schmidt said. “If she would take many good shots, then that will do nothing but help us. It’s actually hard to tell a player to take more shots.”
Little would lead all scorers with 25 points and 16 coming in the opening half of play. Starkville Academy (17-3, 5-0 in division) jumped all over the Lady Cougars to the tune of a 15-5 run from the opening tip forcing Hillcrest coach Tommy Groves to call a timeout.
“I’ve been saying to a lot of people that this second semester of the season may be when (Anna Lea) breaks through,” Schmidt said. “She’s ready to take up some of the offensive slack.”
When Little didn’t touch the ball or get an open look, the next best offense for Starkville Academy seemingly came off the offensive glass as sophomore forward Sallie Kay Richardson and junior Tiffany Huddleston got most of their 23 combined points off their nine offensive glass. The Lady Volunteers outrebounded Hillcrest 40-16 and 19-1 on the offensive end.
Richardson had a double-double effort with 12 points and 10 rebounds along with four steals.
“We got 40 rebounds and running the ball down the floor makes the other players think ‘I’m going to get the ball’,” Schmidt said. “People have been trying to slow us down and had some success with it but we’re trying to find a way to keep that from happening. We like to get out and go.”
Schmidt mentioned her pleasure with her team’s halfcourt defense and ability to contain Hillcrest to just one shot per possession in the first half allowing her team to extend its lead to 34-21 before the halftime buzzer.
Hillcrest (13-6) was able to contain the deficit thanks to the long-range shooting of senior Kayla McAdams as the Lady Volunteers’ pressure defense was able to contain their opponent to shots from beyond the three-point line. McAdams would lead her team with 10 points but only had one baskets in the second half of play.
Starkville Academy was able to stretch its 13-point halftime lead by getting six of the first eight second-half baskets to make the deficits too large for the Lady Cougars to overcome. On night where Schmidt and the SA staff played 13 players, the Lady Vols got 15 points off the bench.
“We had to outhustle them, outplay, outdefend them and beat a good club like Hillcrest,” Schmdt said. “Huddleston off the bench is huge for us. She’s a starter but we’ve gotten in this rotation and it’s been working for us but having her numbers off the bench is key.”
Boys: Hillcrest 47,
Starkville Academy 19
Hillcrest Christian raced out to an early 25-5 lead and never had reason to panic in an impressive road win.
Starkville Academy) again struggled on the offensive end and was unable to find an offensive answer after the injury to star player Calvin Young.
Hillcrest’s high-tempo trap zone defense forced several early turnovers for the Volunteers leading to easy baskets.
In the second quarter Hillcrest had four straight defensive possessions where they caused SA to turn over the basketball before getting across the half-court time line. It would be over three minutes into that quarter of play before Starkville Academy would even record a field goal attempt.
By the time Starkville Academy was able to slowly work the ball in a slow-down, half-court style, outside open jumpers simply wouldn’t fall for the host Vols.
Hillcrest Christian wouldn’t pull off the full-court pressure till late in the game while the only bucket for the Volunteers through the first half would be a three-pointer by guard Kyle Loman. SA would be led in scoring by Zach Gerhart with eight points.
Columbus vs, Tupelo
Elsewhere Friday night, Columbus and Tupelo split a doubleheader in Tupelo.
The Columbus girls won 72-57, while the Tupelo boys won 60-34.