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Kirk Academy’s Carley Hudspeth (12) looks to take the ball inside against Brookhaven Academy’s Caroline Stewart during action Saturday at the Class AA Tournament at Winona Christian School. Kirk advances to the Overall Tournament with a 60-31 win. Staff Photo/Chuck Hathcock

Sports Editor

   WINONA – The pinnacle for basketball teams in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools is qualifying for the Overall Basketball Tournament.
   For the Kirk Academy Raiderettes, it has been 13 years since they have taken part in the tournament, which is held annually at Mississippi College. That streak finally came to an end Saturday afternoon at Winona Christian School, and with arguably the youngest roster in the MAIS.
   Kirk faced Brookhaven Academy in the consolation round of the Class AA Tournament. After a slow start, the Raiderettes pulled away late in the second quarter to lead 24-17 at halftime.
   In the second half, Kirk broke the game open, taking advantage of their pressure defense getting easy baskets. The Raiderettes cruised to a 60-31 win over the Lady Panthers.
   With the win, Kirk improves to 25-14 overall. Brookhaven finishes with a 20-16 mark.
   “It was a big win for our girls and this program,” Coach Amy Carroll Hudspeth said. “I don’t think a lot of them see just what they have been able to accomplish. Getting to this tournament is what you work for all year. Being able to get to it with such a young team is a credit to these girls. They have worked hard to get here.”
   Once again, the defense was the key for Kirk. They used the full court press to create turnovers and easy basket opportunities.
   “Our defense is what gets our offense going,” Hudspeth said. “We felt like we could press them. In the first half, we had some chances to get the lead out big and missed some easy shots.”
   Kirk scored nine of the game’s first 10 points. Brookhaven responded with a 13-0 run of its own, taking a 14-9 lead after one period of play.
   The Raiderettes opened the second period with a 13-1 run to take a 22-15 lead. Buckets from Hayden Grantham, Margaret Taylor, and Brett Adair Kyle put Kirk on top to stay a 15-14. Brookhaven did tie the game briefly at 15-all before Kirk scored seven straight points to lead with 2:58 left in the half. The teams traded buckets in the final part of the period as KA led 24-17 at intermission.
   Kirk opened the second half scoring eight of the first 10 points to lead 32-19 at the 6:36 mark of the period. The Raiderettes led 49-30 after three periods and cruised after that.
   Carley Hudspeth led Kirk with a game-high 21 points. Taylor scored 12 and Grantham added 11. Lauren Snyder finished with seven and Kassandra Beck scored six. Kyle chipped in two and Annie Box had a point.
   Hudspeth and Snyder were named to the All-Tournament team following the conclusion.
   Leake won the championship with a 67-65 decision over Bowling Green (La.). All three teams move on to Mississippi College.
   Kirk now turns its attention to its opening round game today at 1 p.m. at A.E. Wood Coliseum. The Raiderettes face Class AAA third place Jackson Academy, 20-13 in its opening round tilt. The Lady Raiders defeated Starkville Academy to claim the third spot in Class AAA.
   “JA has tremendous tradition,” Hudspeth said. “Coach Jan Sojourner is one of the top coaches in the state. They have a tremendous team and will be a challenge for us.”

   The Raiderettes battled top-ranked Leake for a half, trailing 32-20. In the second half, the Rebelettes broke the game open and won a 73-37 decision.
   Hudspeth paced Kirk with 13 points. Kyle and Snyder both scored seven. Taylor had four.  Lexie Simmons, Grantham, and Beck all had two.

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