Jameika Hoskins liked the view from the bench Tuesday night.
Opponents of the Aberdeen High School girls basketball team shouldn”t be comforted, though, because Hoskins doesn”t figure to spend much time there this season.
The senior forward had a seat on the sidelines because she was recovering from flu-like symptoms and first-year coach Latorrence Bivens wanted to give her time to recover.
The Lady Bulldogs didn”t miss a beat without Hoskins and starters Michelle Stewart and Dayana McGee thanks to the play of Janee Hodges and Regina Barker
Hodges scored a team-high 16 points, while Barker had 12 points, 12 rebounds, nine steals, and three blocked shots to lead Aberdeen to a 47-30 victory against Heritage Academy in the final game of the three-day Heritage Academy Invitational.
In the first varsity game of the day, Callie Minor had 18 and six rebounds to lead Pickens Academy past Hamilton 47-30.
There was some question as to whether Aberdeen (2-0) would show up to play in the finale due to flu-like symptoms that have gone through the team in the past week.
The illness struck Hoskins, who had 32 points Saturday in a season-opening win at Jackson Lanier. Hoskins didn”t practice Monday and received a shot from the doctor to help her feel better. She didn”t dress out for Tuesday”s game, and even though she wasn”t feeling 100 percent, she still enjoyed watching her teammates pick up the slack.
“They looked OK,” Hoskins said. “We had three starters missing and they had to step up to the challenge. I think they did pretty good.”
Seven players scored for Aberdeen, which lost to Raymond 62-48 last year in the semifinals of the Class 3A state tournament.
Bivens, who felt ill Tuesday night, said the opportunity to play without three starters should help the Lady Bulldogs build depth and confidence for later in the season.
“I think we had a chance to show we have a bench and we can be productive without starters in the lineup,” Bivens said.
Bivens credited Heritage Academy for playing physical and for executing its offense. He said his team isn”t going to see many teams that are as disciplined as the Lady Patriots.
Still, Aberdeen”s depth and athleticism proved to be too much.
Barker, a junior, showcased some of the athleticism that could make her the program”s next standout player. In the fourth quarter, she crashed the offensive boards to capitalize on a miss by Hodges. Instead of grabbing the rebound, coming down, and going back up, Barker hung in the air and tapped the ball at the height of her jump for two points. She controlled the fourth quarter with seven points and five rebounds to help the Lady Bulldogs pull away after the Lady Patriots had cut their deficit to 33-26 at the start of the quarter.
“She is one of the hardest workers on the team,” Bivens said. “She always wants to fix what she messes up on.”
Heritage Academy coach Bruce Allsup would have liked his team to clean up some of its misses. The Lady Patriots had plenty of good looks at the basket. Madison Ford (game-high 19 points) had the best looks, but she had an off shooting night and could have scored well over 20 points.
Still, Heritage Academy hung tough and trailed 33-26 after Ford converted a pass from Bailey Rader on a back cut with 6 minutes, 12 seconds remaining. But that was as close as the Lady Patriots managed.
“We did a lot of good things but the ball just didn”t fall for us,” Allsup said. “Going against their quickness all night had a little something to do with it.”
Allsup said his team will see opponents that have similar quickness to Aberdeen this season and that Tuesday”s game was a good test to prepare his players for that experience.
When those games come, Allsup hopes other scorers will have emerged. Christibeth Nelson was Heritage Academy”s next highest scorer with seven points.
“We have four starters who are capable of scoring,” Allsup said. “I expect to see it soon. The bottom line is they are going to start getting the job done.”
Bivens expects Aberdeen to get things done once everyone is healthy and has time to come together. He said his team”s victory against Jackson Lanier was ideal for him because it gave him a chance to earn his first victory as the team”s head coach in his hometown.
Next year, Bivens hopes the Lady Bulldogs can earn their final victory of the season back in Jackson in the Class 3A state title game. He doesn”t feel that will be too much pressure to put on the team because it has had a run of success in the past three seasons, so it knows what to expect when it gets to the highest level.
“One thing we said is we started in Jackson and we want to finish in the same place,” Bivens said.
In the varsity opener, Lincoln Pearson scored eight points and Elizabeth Hankins had seven points and seven rebounds for Pickens Academy.
Drew Cockerham and Hannah Howell paced Hamilton with 10 points each.
Hamilton cut its deficit to 33-26 on an offensive rebound putback by Howell with 5:31 to play, but Pickens Academy went on an 11-0 run the next 4:09 to secure the victory. The Lady Pirates had four steals in that stretch to help them pull away.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.