MACON — In the first five possessions of the second half Saturday night, the New Hope High School girls basketball team made a statement.
The Lady Trojans scored four points on one possession, garnered five offensive rebounds, blocked two shots, and forced three turnovers. That spree of activity quickly erased a six-point halftime deficit.
New Hope still need one more comeback as it later erased a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to post 60-49 win against Noxubee County.
In the nightcap, the Noxubee County boys built an early 15-point lead and held on for a 69-61 victory.
In the first game, New Hope coach Laura Lee Holman was pleased how her team bounced back from a loss Friday night at Oxford.
“We played three games this week and were coming back from a long, tough road trip to Oxford,” Holman said. “I was really proud of the girls for their second-half effort. We showed some growth and maturity there and made some really big plays to win the game.”
The victory had to be sweet for New Hope (15-3). The Lady Trojans were knocked from the ranks of the undefeated with a 48-44 home loss to Noxubee County (10-7) in their final contest before Christmas.
“There was some revenge involved there for sure,” New Hope sophomore Moesha Calmes said. “That was a really big win for our team. In the second half, we showed what type of team we have. The key to the game was definitely our defense. We made some really good plays there in the second half.”
Calmes took matters into her hands late with 11 of her game-high 22 points coming in the fourth quarter.
“Moesha had a great game,” Holman said. “We have been waiting for her to have this kind of game, because we knew she was capable. Kaitlin (Bradley) basically played only offensively because we had to rest her with a hurt knee. Both of them really gave us a lift.
“Our defense in the second half gave us the momentum and allowed us to win. I am really proud of this young bunch for bouncing back after a tough defeat (a 79-50 loss at Oxford) the night before.”
The Lady Trojans trailed 43-34 with less than a minute gone by in the fourth quarter. New Hope responded with a game-tying 11-2 run. The run was punctuated by a critical 3-pointer from Bradley. That shot from the top of the key forced a 45-45 tie with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left.
“At halftime, coach told us we were getting the shots we wanted, we just weren’t knocking them down,” said Bradley, who is also a sophomore. “Coach told us if we would do a better job with the offensive boards, we would score points because we were doing the things that we needed to do to get good shots.”
Consider the halftime lesson learned. The Lady Trojans managed 15 second-half offensive rebounds. New Hope also sparkled at the line, hitting 12 of 16 in the fourth quarter alone to seize the momentum.
“We talked at halftime about crashing the boards better,” Holman said. “In the first half, they dominated us on the rebounds. I told a couple of girls to stop watching and start participating in the game. They really stepped up and responded to that challenge.
“The free-throw line has been crippling us all season. To be able to step up there and have the concentration to make that many free throws is a very good sign for us moving forward.”
Noxubee grabbed its last lead at 47-45 on a putback by Dewisha Clark. New Hope slammed the door shut with the game’s next 12 points. A trey by Calmes placed the Lady Trojans in the lead for good. After a steal by Gabby Murray, New Hope was back in business with Bradley converting on an old-fashioned 3-point play.
Noxubee could not answer with three misses on the offensive end before Calmes was sent to the line. She calmly sank both free shots and the lead moved to 53-47 with 1:05 remaining.
New Hope got four free throws by Calmes and three free throws by D.J. Sanders to close out the win.
“Our defense really stepped up when it had to,” Calmes said. “When we keep our focus on that end of the court, we can be a good team.”
New Hope also received 12 points from Bradley and 10 points from Sanders.
Noxubee County received 21 points from Tyneisa Mickens and 15 points from Clark.
The Lady Tigers erased an early 4-0 deficit with an 11-2 run. Noxubee County stretched the lead to 13-8 after one quarter and led 28-22 at halftime. While the Lady Tigers had a solid offensive game, 11 missed second-half free throws proved too much to overcome.
In a late game Friday night, New Hope led 18-15 after one quarter but were undone by a 12-0 run to start the second quarter. It managed only four points in that period and couldn’t recover from a 15-point halftime deficit.
“We had early foul trouble,” Holman said. “We had to play some of our younger players for some extended minutes. That is a hostile environment up there. We played well for the most part. Other than the second quarter, it was a competitive game.”
Sanders led New Hope with 20 points.
Jamarri Johnson led Noxubee with 16 points, while Terrence Barron added 13 points and Tobarius Hunt had 11 points.
“We shot the ball really well tonight,” Noxubee County coach T.J. Billups said. “It was one of our better offensive efforts. Defensively, we played well for three quarters. I just can’t get these guys to play hard on the defensive end for four quarters.
“If we are going to win in February, we will have to find a way to a better defensive team for four quarters. That is how long games last and we need to play hard for that entire time.”
Noxubee (9-9) built a 15-4 lead. The Trojans found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter and surged ahead, as a putback by Lawrence Brown gave the Trojans a 29-28 halftime lead.
New Hope (10-7) couldn’t build on that lead, however, as the lead switched hands on several occasions in the third quarter. In the final quarter, Noxubee County caught fire, hitting 7 of 8 shots in one stretch, including four 3-pointers.
“This was our home game and the crowd was really fired up,” Johnson said. “We had to make some of those shots. When we hit some threes, it got the whole team fired up.”
An old-fashioned 3-point play by Brown gave New Hope a 50-47 lead with 6:42 remaining. The Tigers answered with seven straight points, including a 3-point basket by Johnson – the first of three straight 3-point makes by the Tigers. Tobarius Hunt hit the next two as the lead quickly grew to 10 points.
“I was proud that we found a way to battle back and get the lead there in the fourth quarter,” Billups said. “New Hope was attacking and they had us on our heels. Down the stretch, we hit several key shots, including some free throws.”
New Hope received 23 points from Brown, 11 points from Jason Tate, and 11 points from Jock Pilgrim.
For Noxubee County, the victory was extra nice, since New Hope earned a 64-60 victory two weeks ago in Lowndes County.
“We owed them one,” Johnson said. “We played two games against them. Tonight, we made more shots.”
In a late game from Friday night, New Hope beat Oxford 54-50.
Chris Mosley led New Hope with 18 points, while Pilgrim had 16 points and Tate had 15 points.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.