November 19, 2019 10:39:10 PM
NEW HOPE -- New Hope senior Gabe Dickerson will shoot from anywhere if it's far enough.
From the corner. From the top of the key. Even from the "T" in the word Trojans, emblazoned in black paint several feet behind the 3-point line on the right wing of New Hope's home court.
"I've gotta stop doing that because it is kind of out of hand," Dickerson said. "It's kind of like a habit."
But on Tuesday, against Alabama foe Lamar County, the Trojans were happy to support their teammate's habit.
Dickerson made four of the team's 10 3-pointers, including three in quick succession in the second quarter, and New Hope piled on the points to rout Lamar County 84-31.
"That's pretty much our game," Dickerson said. "We'll kick and pop 3s."
Forced to undertake that style of play due to size (or lack thereof), the Trojans found the shooting stroke they lacked in a 67-47 win over Northeast Lauderdale last week.
"Our first game, we didn't shoot it very well, so we concentrated a lot on that," New Hope coach Drew McBrayer said. "I thought we did a lot better job this time."
With hot shooting from the outset, the Trojans were able to stick to what they do best.
"We're gonna push the floor really hard, we're gonna get up and down the floor really fast, and we're gonna shoot a bunch of 3s," McBrayer said.
The strategy worked from the start, as New Hope (2-0) went on a 19-0 run in the first quarter to separate from the Bulldogs. A 3-ball from AJ Brownlee capped the streak and put New Hope ahead 24-4, and the Trojans led 29-6 at the end of the quarter.
"We knew we had to come out early with a lot of energy and try to put it away early and just play our game," senior guard RL Mattix said.
The sizable margin allowed McBrayer to give his whole bench playing time -- every Trojan played at least some during the first half, a sign of some welcome breathing room for New Hope.
Dickerson was one of the Trojans' reinforcements off the bench, and McBrayer was glad to see the scoring he brought.
"When you can bring a kid off the bench that comes in and shoots the ball that well, it's really nice," McBrayer said. "I thought he played a good game tonight."
Dickerson's long-range accuracy complemented the steady scoring of senior guards Mattix and Jaylen Smith. Smith scored 17 points, including one 3-pointer.
Mattix made two shots from deep and finished with 14 points, though 16 was within reach. In the third quarter, freshman LJ Hackman tried an alley-oop off the backboard to Mattix, but he couldn't finish it.
"We do it in practice," Mattix said.
The miss was meaningless, as New Hope held a 65-20 lead. Not long after, a running clock was enacted thanks to the mercy rule, and the Trojans kept the pressure on to win 84-31.
That gives New Hope a 2-0 start to its season, vastly different from last year's 2-9 opening; the Trojans lost each of their first four games. For that, Mattix was grateful.
"It's a better start than last year," he said.
New Hope girls 58, Lamar County 26
All week, New Hope girls basketball coach Nick Christy stressed to his team the importance of high-percentage shots.
On Tuesday, in a blowout win over Lamar County, it was clear the Trojans listened.
They pushed the pace early, didn't settle for contested layups or distant jumpers, and ran out to a 19-0 lead over the Bulldogs. It was smooth sailing from there: New Hope won 58-26 for its first victory of the season.
"We wanted to get high-percentage shots and do that through our tempo -- find the opening whether it was attacking or kicking to somebody," Christy said. "Getting that tempo, getting that early lead set the tone for the rest of the game."
The Bulldogs managed just two late buckets in the first quarter, which ended with New Hope ahead 19-4. Lamar County cut the deficit a bit in the second thanks to too many "frustration fouls" called on the Trojans, Christy said. He had to sit three of his starters during the quarter thanks to foul trouble.
"That's what sparked them coming back: We weren't able to get the tempo on offense because we were running a bunch of subs," Christy said.
The Trojans' bench -- emptied plenty in the blowout -- did admirably, though, giving their coach reliable options outside of the starting five.
And when the second half began, New Hope went right back to the things with which it found success in the first quarter. The Trojans outscored the Bulldogs 16-2 in the third quarter.
"We hustled more," senior center Juquala Sherrod said. "We pushed it more."
Sherrod and junior guard Anna Prince tied for the team lead with 10 points apiece. Junior forward Reed McGlothin and seniors India Mays and Imoni Harris each scored eight.
The team effort let the Bulldogs coast to their first win of the season after losing a lead late against Northeast Lauderdale last Tuesday.
"To know we can play well as a team gives us more confidence for later on in the season," Sherrod said.
The Trojans will face Noxubee County at home on Monday.
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.