By Matt Goisman
CANADIAN — The Stuart Lady Hornets started five girls with at least a year’s worth of varsity experience apiece. The Canadian Lady Cougars started just one player with prior varsity experience.
That’s the difference between scoring 77 points and scoring 31.
The Lady Hornets got more than 20 points from both Kayla Smith and Emilee Beck, plus 11 points from both McKay Barton and Megan Jernigen, leading to a dominant 77-31 win against the Lady Cougars on Tuesday at Darrell James Gymnasium in Canadian.
“Coming back from Christmas break, there are the jitters,” Stuart coach Melinda Dobson said. “They just settled down.
“They run the 2-3 zone (defense), so you’re going to have two wings open.”
Already up 18-9 after the first quarter, Stuart pushed its lead into double digits with a 12-4 second. A steal lead to layup by Chasity Garvin, then Smith knocked down one of her seven 3-pointers to push the lead to 23-9.
Two free throws from Canadian forward Tiersten Fairchilds pulled the game to within 12, but Beck then put back an offensive rebound. Fairchilds scored a layup, but a steal led to two free throws from Smith, then Beck found Garvin on a fastbreak for a layup and a 29-13 lead.
Beck finished the second with a jump shot off a pass from Kylie Jernigen. Beck finished with a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and also recorded four assists and four steals.
“I was pushing the ball, and I was making it go harder,” Beck said. “And then I’d step back and I’d push even harder and it just wouldn’t go in.
“It was in my release-point, and I was thinking I just had to let it go. During halftime I thought about it on the bench, and I made an adjustment.”
The Lady Hornets’ offense seemed to sputter a little in the first half, but in the third quarter the Lady Hornets caught fire. Stuart’s first five baskets in the third were 3-pointers, and the Lady Hornets went on to sink six 3-points and 10 total baskets in the third.
Smith and Beck each knocked down two 3-pointers in Stuart’s 15-2 start to the third quarter, and Megan Jernigen knocked down one. Smith led the game with 26 points.
“I didn’t change my shot,” Smith said. “They just gave me a little bit more space the second half. ... I was really looking for like layups and stuff like that tonight, and then it just happened. I just started shooting and they just fell in.”
Beck’s second 3-pointer of the third made it 45-15, then a steal led to a layup from Megan Jernigen and a 48-15 lead. Stuart finished the third quarter up 57-20.
Because of their inexperience, the Lady Cougars couldn’t do much more than single baskets in the midst of long-scoring runs by the Lady Hornets. The height of forwards Fairchilds and Michelle Greco gave Canadian some strength in the post, but Stuart neutralized Canadian’s height disadvantage by pressuring Canadian’s unconfident guards.
That same lack of confidence showed up whenever a ball came loose to the court. The Lady Hornets sprinted, dove and fought for every deflection or long rebound, always looking a step ahead of the Lady Cougars.
“We really, really stress hustle,” Smith said. “Any time that you see a loose ball on the ground, Megan, Chasity or McKay are going to be there to pick it up.”
The Lady Cougars scored 4 points in a row only twice in the game: a layup by Fairchilds followed by a steal and fastbreak basket by Elisabeth Willis in the first, and back-to-back layups by Fairchilds early in the fourth.
Fairchilds scored 18 for the Lady Cougars. Following her 4 points in the fourth, Beck knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, drawing a foul on the second and sinking the free throw to make it 64-24 Lady Hornets.
Willis, Canadian’s point guard and only veteran player, scored 7. Her fastbreak cut Stuart’s lead to 12-7 midway through the first, but layups by Barton and Smith quickly pushed the lead back to 9.
“There was that moment there where if we can get those defensive stops, keep the ball on offense the way we want to, be able to feed the post players and have long offensive series, we understand that’s what we’re going to try to do,” Canadian coach Daniel Lokey said.
With the win, Stuart improved to 8-2. Canadian fell to 1-11.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.