Although it was a low scoring game, Saturday night's regional contest between rivals Oak Hill Academy and Starkville Academy had all the makings of a Greek drama with bragging rights on the line.
In the end, it came down to clutch free throws and it was Oak Hill (15-10) who pulled off the nail biter, edging the Volunteers 36-35. The loss extended Starkville's losing streak to seven games.
Trailing by one, Starkville's Carnail Minor tied the game at 35 making the first of two free throws. After missing the second, Oak Hill's AJ Jones went coast-to-coast down the other end and drew a foul on his way to the basket. He missed the first and made the second to give the Raiders the lead with 1.19 seconds on the clock. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Minor's last ditch effort from half court was spoiled by the Raiders. The Volunteers were looking for a foul after it looked like contact was made. It never came.
Starkville Academy head coach Mark Alexander was happy with the effort his team had given in the ball game.
"My kid's rallied, they played great," he said. "Oak Hill is a quality, well coached team. We left it all out on the floor. We did everything we should have. We deserved to win that basketball game. I know the score board says 36-35, but in mind, we won that game."
Jones, who finished 2-of-5 from the line, had a chance to give the Raiders the lead with 21 seconds to play. But he came through when he needed to, leading the Raiders with 13-points in the ball game.
Raiders head Coach Brian Middleton knew his team didn't play as swell as they could have, but like several times this season, they found a way to win.
"That's something we had in that seven game winning streak and that's what we didn't have in that four game losing streak," he said. "But we found a way to do it. We didn't shoot well but we played hard and i'm excited that we won."
Starkville rallied to an 18-point win in the previous meeting back in November, but found themselves in a five point hole to start the contest. SA quickly respond with a 7-0 run of their own as the game was tied at 7-7 after the opening quarter.
The second quarter was just as tense. Oak Hill grabbed a four point lead only to allow the Volunteers to tie it back up. Austin Kinard gave the visitors a two-point advantage with less than a minute left to play before the half, but on the Raiders last possession, Jones drove it down the lane, and tied it at 15-15 before the break.
The Raiders grabbed their first big lead of the ball game early in the third quarter with a 6-2 run to make it 21-17 with 5:45 to play. The Volunteers were held to just six points in that period as Oak Hill grabbed a 26-21 advantage with still a quarter left to play.
The lead didn't last long, as the Volunteers rallied back and tied the game at 28-28 before Zachary Gerhart pushed them in front 32-29 with 3:25 to go.
Kinard led Starkville on the night with 12-points while Minor finished with nine. Reid Posey chipped in with six for the Raiders as they won three in a row.
Girls: SA 55-Oak Hill 46
Starkville Academy scored nine points in the first three and half minutes, all from downtown. They finished with six long range baskets in the first half as they held on for a nine point win over the Lady Raiders in the first game of a varsity double-header.
Oak Hill's Anna Ready sank a pair of free-throws to trim the defect to four, after that the Lady Vols (24-3) scored five unanswered points to take a 18-9 lead after the first quarter.
SA stretched the lead nine before Ready drained back-to-back three-pointers to keep the Lady Raiders within distance, but the Lady Vols answered with a pair of threes of their own by Lauren Atwell which gave the visitors a 30-23 cushion at the half.
"We played very good defense," Lady Vols head coach Glenn Schmidt said. "They could score, but in spite of that I thought we played good defense. Their guards were their best scorers, but we were able to contain it and not let it get out of hand."
SA started the second half on a 6-0 run and stretched the margin to 11 after the third quarter. Oak Hill, who were trailing by 14-points at one time in the fourth, were able to mount a comeback with six points late in the game, but it wasn't enough to pick up their third consecutive win after falling to Leake Academy one week ago.
Ready finished with a game-high 19-points for the Lady Raiders including five 3-pointers. Tori Ellis and Maegen Ellis also contributed with 10-points apiece.
Anna Lea Little led the Lady Vols with 14-points while Tiffany Huddleston finished with 10.View more articles in: