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STANHOPE — Man, or woman for that matter, cannot live by pressure alone.
So in the 23-day span between the championship game of the Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament and a late 3-A Big East Conference opener, the Hunt High varsity girls basketball team had no other option.
The Lady Warriors simply had to become more difficult to guard in the half court.
Friday night against host Southern Nash, Hunt did that.
Using unselfish basketball from a variety of sources, the Lady Warriors carved up the Southern Nash defense with a series of shrewd passes into the paint, forcing the Ladybirds into rushed, poor shot selection by Hunt’s length, en route to a comfortable 56-33 win in the conference opener for both teams.
“We have adapted from the Fike game, the way we’re running our offense,” Hunt head coach Tiffany Parks said of the FFHT title game, which the Lady Warriors lost. “The personnel changed right before the game, so we weren’t quite ready for the starters. But we had some issues prior to the game that changed the starting lineup.”
Hunt (8-5) sat senior Kayla Kent and junior Tatiana Smith for the opening quarter, but it was of no consequence against a Southern Nash team that remained winless through 12 games. Dating back to a 59-43 win over Fike on Feb. 8, 2014, the Ladybirds have lost 33 consecutive Big East regular-season contests.
Junior Shaniah Spells was the early catalyst for Hunt, netting the game’s first five points and finding sophomore Bria Griffith for a layup underneath. The Lady Warriors never trailed and bolted out to a 13-1 cushion on sophomore Khala McNeill’s jumper.
Spells picked up her second foul at the 4:09 mark of the opening quarter and glanced over to the bench, but Parks made no move for a substitution.
Griffith led Hunt with 16 points, while Spells had 11. All Hunt players were inserted by the 2:11 mark of the third quarter.
“Eager,” Spells said of Hunt’s mindset during the long layoff. “Ready to hustle.”
The Lady Warriors took an 18-4 lead into the second quarter and showed progression in moving without the ball. With Kent and Smith into the game, pinpoint passing from Spells, Kent and McNeill in the halfcourt led to easy baskets and helped the Lady Warriors take a commanding 33-14 lead into the half.
“That’s part of some of the things we wanted to adapt and change in the offense,” Parks said. “We just got a little stagnant during the Fike game, and we decided that there needed to be more movement. More movement creates more passes.”
Southern Nash began to find its touch from long range in the second half, making six of its seven 3-pointers over the final 16 minutes of play. Junior Stacie Winner had 12 points on four 3-point baskets, all in the second half. Sophomore Rayna Bailey and junior Shontell Nicholson each had seven.
“They’re long and athletic, which gives us some trouble,” Southern Nash head coach Jordan Bass said of Hunt. “We don’t match up very well with them. But I thought our girls fought until the end of the game. Shots started falling towards the end of the game, but you get down over 20 points, it’s hard to come back.”
Hunt led by as many as 30 on junior Tyra Rushing’s second-chance basket in the fourth.
While a work in progress, Hunt’s on-floor product Friday night didn’t alter Bass’ preseason prognostication.
“I told our girls going into the season that I felt like Hunt could win our conference,” the Firebirds’ coach said. “And I believe if they play like that, I believe they’ll finish towards the top for sure.”
Griffith 16, Jones, McNeill 5, Thorpe, Tucker, Rushing 6, Kent 6, Spells 11, Smith 9, Sutton, Lucas 3.
SOUTHERN NASH (33)
Moore, Nicholson 7, Newkirk 3, Thorne, Taybron, Gaure, Ruffin, McCalston 2, Bailey 7, Winner 12, Williams 2.
Score by quarters:
Hunt 18 15 17 6 — 56
Southern Nash 4 10 9 10 — 33