October 28, 2010 12:24:00 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Glenn Schmidt''s instructions from the sideline rang throughout the gymnasium.
"Where is she? Don''t let her catch it," the Starkville Academy girls basketball coach shouted as her players tried to find Christibeth Nelson.
But even the loudest exhortations can''t stop a shooter when they''re in the zone.
Nelson poured in a game-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers, to lead the Heritage Academy girls basketball team to a 52-46 victory against Starkville Academy on the second day of the three-day preseason tournament in Columbus.
Nelson, a senior guard, was 9 of 14 from the field with six rebounds to help the Lady Patriots improve to 2-0.
Bailey Rader added 12 points and seven rebounds, and Lindsey House had two clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to spark Heritage Academy.
After the game, Schmidt, a former Street & Smith All-American who used to coach the women''s basketball team at the Mississippi University for Women, praised Nelson for her hot shooting evening.
"I tell you what beat us, and I rarely ever say a player beat us, but Nelson flat out lit it up," Schmidt said. "We rarely ever want to give somebody 28 points, but we couldn''t find her. They did a great job of getting her the ball. They are very well organized in their zone offense."
Heritage Academy coach Bruce Allsup praised the play of House, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game and to give the team a 41-38 lead with 4 minutes, 23 seconds to play. Starkville Academy cut the lead to one 11 seconds later, but it couldn''t take the lead, as Nelson hit a 3-pointer from Stephanie Cruse and Rader hit another perimeter jump shot to kick the lead to 47-42.
"Christibeth shot the lights out and Bailey shot the ball good tonight," Allsup said. "We have several players who are very capable of doing that. We want to get more consistent with that because we feel like in practice they can do it. It is just a matter of going out in the games and doing it."
Heritage Academy needed to execute in its half-court set without 6-foot-5 junior center Rachel Hollivay. The transfer from New Hope High is expected to be out until the middle of November as she recovers from a fractured left foot.
Without Hollivay''s athleticism in the post, the Lady Patriots relied on a motion offense predicated on screening and moving the ball. Nelson used the assistance from her teammates to move into seams or to spot up when the defense couldn''t find her or was slow to react. She praised her teammates for getting her the ball in spots where she could score.
"I have always liked to shoot, but tonight I just tried not to think about it," Nelson said. "It just kind of came to me."
Nelson said she has thought too much about her shooting in the past and that she is trying to let it flow so she can be as dangerous as she was Wednesday night. She said she plays her best when she doesn''t think about her shooting.
"It sure helps when she shoots like that," Allsup said. "I think it will open up even more when Hollivay returns."
Nelson''s ability to play that way will be a bonus when Hollivay returns. Nelson said the Lady Patriots worked well with Hollivay in the summer and in the preseason and are anxious to get her back into the lineup, especially if it means more open looks for shooters like her.
"We really do work well together and she does with a lot of the players who are outside shooters," Nelson said. "She can get so many easy shots inside because she is so tall. Eventually people will try to play on her in the inside, so she can pass us back to us on the outside. I think it going to work out well when she comes back."
Schmidt said the free throws her team missed in the first half affected its confidence. The Lady Volunteers made just 6 of 15 free throws and hit just 2 of 7 shots from the field in the final four-plus minutes as the Lady Patriots pulled away.
Starkville Academy, which has only eight players on its roster, had numerous quality looks at the basket earlier in the game but failed to convert. Still, Schmidt said her team, which is playing plenty of inexperienced players, still is doing a lot of good things after only two games.
Unfortunately, Nelson''s stroke proved a little too hot to stop.
"Nelson said, ''Not tonight baby'' and just lit it up," Schmidt said.
In the junior high game, Sallie Gardner had 17 points to lead Heritage Academy (2-0) to a 36-29 victory against Starkville Academy (0-2).
Shiloh Ellis added seven points for the Lady Patriots.
Maridee Higginbotham had 10 points and Lauren Temple had six points for the Lady Volunteers.
In varsity action Tuesday, Nelson had 15 points in a 59-38 victory against Carroll Academy.
Rader had 13 points and Cruse added 11.
The Heritage Academy junior high team used 11 points from Ellis, seven from Kristen Phillips and six from Mary Douglas Kerby to earn a 41-20 victory.
Starkville Academy lost to Madison Ridgeland Academy 58-34 on Tuesday. Richardson led the way with 11 points, while Nora Carroll had nine.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.