By Ben Wait
Special to the Dispatch
NEW HOPE — The New Hope High School boys basketball team held West Lowndes to just 20 points in the second half of a 62-52 victory Friday night.
The Lady Trojans used good defense as well as they moved their record to 9-0 with a 55-27 win over the Lady Panthers.
In the nightcap, the Panthers went on a 10-1 run late in the second quarter to make it 32-all at halftime. The Panthers had all the momentum and Trojan head coach Drew McBrayer went into the locker room knowing changes were needed.
“We were just trying to get back to defending,” McBrayer said. “I thought we gave up way too many points in the first half. In order for us to be a good basketball team we have to defend and rebound. I think we did a lot better job in the second half in doing that and it kind of blew the game open a little bit.”
His team responded by going on an 8-2 run to start the second half.
Guard Jaquel Pilgram lead the way for the Trojans with 16 points. He took his coach’s advice and came out ready in the second half.
“We just came out with a lot of energy and played as a team,” Pilgram said of his team’s second half play.
The Panthers ran up and down the court all night and gave the Trojans everything they could handle. McBrayer has seen this play before from the Panthers so was not shocked at how they attacked the game.
“That’s always West Lowndes,” McBrayer said. “They are going to get up and down the floor anytime you play them. Almost to the point where it makes you have to get back on defense and we didn’t at times in the first half and gave some easy baskets up. We took away a lot of those in the second half.”
The Trojans dominated the first quarter and used a full court press to try and slow down the Panther offense, but McBrayer did not want his team to get into a track meet with the Panthers and told them to play their style of ball.
“They try to speed you up and get you going faster than you want and I just told the guys to relax and slow down and make them run their offense and just don’t let them in the lane to get easy shots,” McBrayer said.
The Trojans had taken a 47-43 lead into the fourth quarter but came out with another 11-2 run to ice the game. Guard Jason Tate was the engine behind this run scoring five points including a three to take the wind out of the Panthers’ sails.
“We just had to take control of the ball and make sure they didn’t get it and be smart with the ball,” said Tate who scored 15 points.
Tate and Pilgram accounted for half of the Trojan offense and McBrayer was glad to see it.
“We have been struggling lately making some shots but I thought tonight our guards stepped up and made some shots that we haven’t made in the last few games,” McBrayer said.
Center Lawrence Brown chipped in 11 points with most of those coming in the first half. West Lowndes will travel to French Camp on Tuesday, while New Hope will play host to Caledonia Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Lady Trojans are riding high after last season’s 6-16 finish. Head coach Laura Lee Holman is pleased a good offseason helped her team.
“Considering we were 6-16 last year I knew we were going to have to work hard this summer,” Holman said. “I knew things would be better but this is beyond my expectations. I’m so proud of my girls; they deserve every win. They committed to getting better after last year. They got tired of getting beat every night.”
The defense only kept getting better for the Lady Trojans as the game went on. They held the Lady Panthers to 10 points in the first quarter, five in the second quarter, three in the third quarter, and nine in the third quarter.
Holman decided to use full court press early and often. Early in the first quarter she called for the press and it was effective in producing turnovers. Holman has seen better play from her defense though.
“Actually I feel like this is one of our worst nights defensively,” Holman said. “It has been a big key to our wins this season. We have gotten a lot of points off our defense. We have kept teams scoring 30 and below. It has been a huge part in turning this season around from last year.”
Lauren Holifield lead the way with 16 points, while D.J. Sanders had 11, and Mercedes Mattix and Moesha Calmes each had nine.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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