STARKVILLE — The Starkville Academy boys basketball team just wanted to stay in the game.
Trailing Hartfield Academy 33-15 after three quarters of play Dec. 12 in Flowood, the Volunteers knew they were far from out of the contest. When the fourth period started, they got stop after stop and scored on possession after possession to tighten the gap.
And with 10 seconds left, down by two, junior Jarius Jordan sank a go-ahead 3-pointer to give Starkville Academy an improbable 39-38 win.
It was the Vols’ most exhilarating win over the course of an 8-0 start that has no one in orange and blue surprised.
“We expected it,” senior forward Jawon Yarbrough said. “We’ve been working since August.”
Starkville Academy’s schedule has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic — whose hasn’t? — but the Vols remain healthy and full steam ahead. On Thursday, Yarbrough previewed the team’s next game: Saturday against Shan Whiteside Classic host DeSoto Central in Southaven.
“I hope we go out there and compete and play hard, and I hope we come out with the win,” Yarbrough said.
A victory over an MHSAA Class 6A program would certainly legitimize what the Vols have accomplished so far this season, he said.
“It would mean a lot, actually, because we’re a private school and they’re a public school,” Yarbrough said. Unfortunately for the Vols, they weren’t able to pull off the upset, falling 52-40 in their first loss of the season, bringing their record to 8-1.
Starkville Academy’s size — or relative lack thereof — is one reason the Vols weren’t highly regarded to open the 2020-21 campaign, senior guard Dre Frazier said.
“Most people doubted us before the season started,” Frazier said.
So far, he and his teammates have done their best to dispel those doubts. That’s not easy considering Frazier and Yarbrough are the Vols’ only two seniors; the team’s roster contains five juniors and eight sophomores.
Yarbrough said Starkville Academy’s players have bought in more under second-year coach Bill Ball and that the team’s defense has stepped things up.
And with so many contributors, the load on the Vols’ seniors is lessened. Against Winston Academy on Tuesday, 11 players scored as Starkville Academy cruised to a 63-10 win.
“We don’t have to take over as much when everybody’s playing good as a team,” Frazier said.
So far, the Volunteers have been, but they know they still have room to improve. At Thursday’s practice, they practiced passing and handling a full-court press in anticipation for the taller Jaguars defenders they faced Saturday.
Frazier said the team needs to work on hitting shots at a better clip and taking more charges, while Yarbrough mentioned limiting turnovers and continuing the Vols’ strong defense.
With those improvements, the two seniors agreed, Starkville Academy’s hot start could yield even better results down the line.
“We expect to win more games,” Frazier said. “We really want a ring before we leave.”