WEST POINT — It was halftime, and Nick Christy was not happy.
The New Hope High School girls basketball coach had just watched 16 minutes of disorganized, confused and lackluster basketball, the likes of which he had not seen his team play all year.
“Not to that degree of ‘we’re here in body but not in mind,’” Christy said. “Lack of effort, lack of mental focus, lack of execution, energy, all that rolled in together, that’s terrible basketball, and I hate that people had to watch that,” Christy said.
So, with the Trojans trailing West Point 30-14 at intermission, he looked for solutions.
“That’s some of what we talked about at halftime: I’m going to find five people, I don’t care who you are, I’m going to find people who are going to hustle and do what’s asked of them,” Christy said. “We used some freshmen a lot, all the way through the second half. They gave big effort in big minutes for us.”
Freshmen Jakayla Smith and Tamera Ross teamed with senior Taylor Brownlee to score all 25 of the Trojans’ fourth-quarter points as they rallied from 12 points down entering the period for a wild 53-49 win over West Point on Tuesday night in a Class 5A, Region 1 game in West Point.
The win snapped a three-game skid for New Hope (5-7, 1-1 5A-1). West Point fell to 8-6 and 0-2.
Brownlee had 5 points at halftime, but neither Smith nor Ross scored during the first two quarters, and the trio combined for just 2 points during the third quarter.
Things were about to change.
The Green Wave, who saw their lead trimmed to 44-39 after Smith took a pass from Ross and put in a pretty one-handed shot at the 4:49 mark of the fourth quarter, pushed the lead back to nine thanks to Malajae Robinson, whose layup ahead of the field and two free throws a half-minute later made it 48-39 with 3:53 left.
But the next two and a half minutes belonged to the Trojans. After Brownlee hit two free throws, Ross drove the length of the floor for a bucket and then took a steal in for another layup. Smith followed with a 3-pointer after a steal to tie the game and another from the top of the key to give New Hope its first lead at 51-48 with 1:18 to go.
They would not surrender it.
After a free throw cut the lead to two, Brownlee scored on a drive after the Trojans broke the West Point press with 53 seconds to go for the game’s final points.
“It took a couple of freshmen that gave us everything they had and really created that spark to get us back in the game,” Christy said.
The Trojans scored 25 points during the fourth quarter after scoring 28 through the first three, with Ross netting 9 and Lewis 7. Brownlee also scored 9 points during the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 14.
The Trojans hit 13 of 23 free throws for the game, but they were off during the crucial fourth, missing 6 of 11 attempts. The Trojans only took 10 free throws for the game, making 8.
Robinson and Taylor Fair each scored a game-high 15 points for West Point.
The Green Wave weren’t that sharp in the first half, either, but they played through their mistakes in a way the Trojans did not. And they were happy defending in a way that invited the Trojans to make the same mistakes over and over.
And they were scoring. Robinson scored 9 during the first half, Fair added 7, and Terica Smith scored all 7 of her points in the first quarter for West Point, which led 14-6 after one. The Green Wave went on runs of 7-0 in the first and 8-0 in the second, hitting two 3-pointers and connecting on 8 of 10 free throws during the half.
“We knew they wanted an up-tempo game, and they were going to shoot volume 3s whether we played man or zone,” Christy said. West Point did not hit a single trey after halftime.
But none of that would have mattered for the Trojans if Smith and Ross didn’t team with Brownlee to light up the floor during the fourth quarter. And Christy knows what he has in his freshmen.
Said the coach: “I’ve got them for three more years, so I’m excited about that.”