February 14, 2017 10:52:29 PM
West Point girls basketball coach Dashmond Daniel does not hesitate to call Jamia Hollings, "the heartbeat," of his team. So, when he rested her with a high ankle sprain for three weeks, even when she could have played earlier than that, he did it for a reason.
He did it for the playoffs.
Hollins returned to action in Tuesday's Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 tournament and turned in an 11-point, six-rebound and two-steal performance.
West Point beat Saltillo 57-24 to kick off the tournmament at New Hope High School.
Hollings was one of four for West Point to tally two or more steals: Amiya Rush, Amari Heard and Chandra Rains also did it, Rains doing so off the bench.
"We're known for our pressure, but looking at the film, I saw they were kind of a run-and-gun team, too, so we decided to slow it down and make them think," Daniel said. "They had to stop and look for their girl. In the fullcourt press, they get past one girl and they're looking all the way."
West Point ended with 12 steals, four of them coming in the first quarter in which it imposed its will. Almost all of West Point's 17 first-quarter points came via lay-up or free throws resulting from a lay-up attempt.
"We wanted to attack, get them in foul trouble. That's our game," Daniel said. "In girls basketball you can do that; maybe not so much in boys, they slide their feet a little quicker. They only have three or four core girls, so we wanted to attack them and get them in foul trouble."
West Point, with an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter, did not let its foot off the gas, taking a 21-point lead into halftime. Offensive rebounds were pivotal in the second quarter, as West Point grabbed six of them to keep Saltillo from getting enough possessions to mount the comeback.
The Green Wave (17-5) had four players score in double digits: Rush and Heard scored 11 each while Hollings and Arresta Davis scored 10 each. Heard added two steals and two assists.
West Point scecured a home playoff game when the Class 5A state tournament starts next week. West Point will face New Hope at 6 Friday night for the region title.
Oxford boys 78, West Point 53: West Point coach Brad Cox's plan for slowing down Oxford's star guard Jarkel Joiner was as good as any, but there's only so much one can do when one of the nation's top scorer gets hot.
Joiner, a Cal State Bakersfield signee and one of the nation's leading scorers, put 40 points on the board in handing the Green Wave a defeat.
West Point will face Saltillo at 7:30 Thursday night in the third-place game with a spot in the playoffs on the line.
West Point had Joyner corralled, with just one point, until the final minute of the first quarter. Joyner hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first quarter, then followed it with two more on Oxford's first two possessions of the second quarter. Suddenly, Joyner had 10 points and West Point was down by 12.
"The wheels started to fall off then," Cox, West Point's coach, said. "We had two starters out with two fouls in the first quarter, which didn't help."
Joyner padded his total with several uncontested dunks in transition, pushing a game that was within 10 points for a significant stretch out of reach.
A tumultuous yet promising season came to an end for West Point's Dannion Matthews, leading the Green Wave with 16 points. Cox said Matthews has come on late in the year after dealing with nagging injuries that derailed high hopes from the preseason.
"He had to grow up here real late in the year," Cox said of Matthews.
Matthews scored 10 of his 16 in the fourth quarter. Randayus Armstrong scored eight points in support of Matthews, including two 3-pointers in the second quarter to keep the game within reach of Joyner's first outburst.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson