JACKSON — If you told Starkville Academy boys basketball coach Bill Ball his team would hold powerhouse Hartfield Academy to just 45 points in Saturday’s MAIS Class 4A championship game, he would have taken it.
Of course, Ball couldn’t have foreseen an offensive performance as bad as the one the Volunteers had Saturday night at Hillcrest Christian School in Jackson.
Starkville Academy (21-4) made only eight of its 45 shots from the field and struggled to score all night in a 45-20 loss that handed the Hawks the state title.
“Our effort was there,” Ball said. “Our defense was good for the most part, especially against that caliber offense.”
But on the other end of the court, Starkville Academy was soundly beaten on the glass and kept out of the paint by 6-foot-7 Hartfield senior Jonathan Lucas, who kept white and orange jerseys out of the key all night.
“When that happens — and you allow that to happen — we’re in trouble,” Ball said.
The Vols’ scoring struggles allowed Hartfield to start fast and bury Starkville Academy early. A 7-0 run to begin the game got the packed gym at Hillcrest rocking, and Hartfield jumped out to a nine-point lead at the end of the period.
“I knew they would come out really attacking and flying around,” Ball said. “Certainly that first quarter when it’s 13-4 makes for a long night.”
The Vols went on to score just four points in the next 15-plus minutes while the Hawks kept up a decent pace. With 24 seconds left, eighth-grader Wiggy Ball downed a 3-pointer from the right wing — Starkville Academy’s only score in the third quarter. By that point, the Vols were frustrated: Sixteen seconds prior, senior Jawon Yarbrough pushed Hartfield star Josh Lee to the court so hard that one of Lee’s shoes flew off. Yarbrough was whistled for a flagrant foul.
In the fourth quarter, with little time left to stage a comeback, the Vols mostly resorted to hoisting up 3s, only one of which found the net. Starkville Academy finished 2 of 23 for deep, but continuing to take 3s was the only viable strategy left.
“For us to have quality possessions would probably mean long possessions,” Ball said. “We just couldn’t afford it. We were playing against the clock as well as Hartfield in the second half.”
The clock — and the Hawks — won. When the final buzzer sounded, Hartfield’s bench sprinted out to celebrate a well-deserved title with the players on the court.
“Not only are those kids good offensively and talented, but they defended and they played excellent defense in their zone,” Ball said. “We didn’t have an answer.”
Still, all is not lost for the Vols. Starkville Academy will host a game in the MAIS overall tournament this coming week, a reminder that the year isn’t over just yet.
“Anytime you can still play, you’ve got life and your season’s still alive, you should be excited about it,” Ball said.
And though a state championship wasn’t to be for Starkville Academy, Ball said the Vols are proud of how far they’ve come.
“I know we’re all disappointed, but when we look back at this accomplishment, I think if you told us in August or September that we’d be 21-4 and state runners-up, I think any of us might not have believed it,” Ball said. “Sure, tonight was ugly, but I think over the course of the season, you’re going to have bad games, and this was a bad one.
“We’re going to be fine.”
Prep Girls Basketball
West Lowndes 38, Sacred Heart 31, MHSAA Class 1A quarterfinal
Belmont 71, Noxubee County 54, MHSAA Class 3A quarterfinal
Prep Boys Basketball
Senatobia boys 60, Noxubee County 49, MHSAA Class 3A quarterfinal
Starkville boys 78, Olive Branch 54, MHSAA Class 6A quarterfinal
South Choctaw Academy (Ala.) 13, Pickens Academy (Ala.) 0, Friday
Heritage Academy 18, Lee Academy 4
Rhett Ketchum finished a 7-for-7 day with a 4-for-4 performance, including a home run, in an 18-4 Heritage Academy win over Lee Academy on Saturday.
Ketchum also got the win on the mound for the Patriots, and Caleb Hall had the save.
Hall and Mitchell Woodard had multihit games for Heritage Academy. Reed Brewer had a double with the bases loaded, and Aaron Downs was 2 for 4 with four walks and five RBIs.
Cole Ketchum had a home run for the Patriots.
Heritage Academy 19, Indianola Academy 4
The Patriots beat Indianola Academy 19-4 earlier Saturday.
Rhett Ketchum had three of his hits, including a two-run homer, in the game. Drew Huskison also had three hits, and Jack Ketchum picked up the win on the mound.
Phil Campbell (Ala.) 3, New Hope 2 at Winfield, Ala.
Fayette County (Ala.) 4, New Hope 3 at Winfield, Ala.
Kosciusko 7, West Point 3
Starkville 3, West Lauderdale 2
D’Iberville 7, Starkville 4, Friday
Mooreville 7, Starkville Academy 4, six innings
STARKVILLE — Starkville Academy lost 7-4 to Mooreville in a six-inning game early Saturday.
The Troopers scored their first four runs on solo home runs.
Starkville Academy 17, Bayou Academy 11, Friday
STARKVILLE — Starkville Academy got five RBIs from Colby Allen in a 17-11 win over Bayou Academy on Friday night in Starkville.
Micah McGee led the Volunteers with four hits. Starkville Academy scored in five of its six innings at the plate, including an eight-run third and a five-run fourth.
Allen also struck out five batters in 3.1 innings. Porter Skelton pitched 2.2 innings for the Vols.
Nettleton 14, Oak Hill Academy 2, four innings
STARKVILLE — Oak Hill Academy lost Saturday’s game against Nettleton 14-2 in four innings at Starkville Academy.
Garrett Edwards had a two-run single for the Raiders in the bottom of the first, but Nettleton added 10 runs to its 4-2 lead to get the win.
Winston Academy 11, Oak Hill Academy 3, Friday
LOUISVILLE — A six-run fifth inning for Winston Academy cost Oak Hill a chance to snag a road win on Friday in Louisville.
Drew Wright led the Raiders with a 2-for-3 night, while Manning Huffman was 1 of 4 with the team’s lone RBI. Gunter Reed was 1 of 2 with a run scored, and Kip Alpe was 1 of 3 with a run scored.
Reed struck out five in four innings on the mound, allowing four hits and three earned runs.
Oak Hill Academy will host Heritage Academy on Monday.
South Choctaw Academy (Ala.) 11, Pickens Academy (Ala.) 8, Friday
TOXEY, Ala. — The Pickens Academy (Alabama) baseball team lost Friday’s road game to South Choctaw Academy (Alabama), 11-8.
The Rebels put up two runs in the first and third innings, three in the fourth inning and four in the fifth to beat the Pirates. Pickens got four runs in the first, two in the second and one each in the sixth and seventh.
Hayden Dyer went 4 for 5 with two doubles, two runs scored and four RBIs for Pickens. Aidan Johnson, Sawyer Perrigin and Bodhi Parham all had two hits.
On the mound, Lane Lowery struck out seven over 3.2 innings, allowing eight hits and six runs. Perrigin allowed four runs on five hits in 2.1 innings, but all seven outs were recorded via strikeout.
Pickens will play Monday at Russell Christian Academy in Meridian.