January 30, 2013 2:01:14 AM
BY DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
In a critical region game, a team must rely on its seniors. For the New Hope High School boys basketball team, Derrick Sherrod carried the flag Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-1 guard scored 16 points in a 64-54 win over West Point and did most of his damage off the dribble. Sherrod was especially potent in the second half, where back-to-back buckets took New Hope's lead from two to seven (47-40) just before the fourth quarter. The Green Wave would get no closer.
"That's what you hope to get out of one of your seniors in a big division game," said New Hope coach Drew MacBrayer. "He did a great job of attacking all night long. We've struggled with that at times, but he stepped up and played really well."
MacBrayer said the Trojans entered the game looking to match West Point's tenacity on both ends by attacking the basket. While Sherrod provided plenty of darting cuts to the hoop, 6-foot-3 forward Whyatt Foster did damage inside and out. The junior finished with a game-high 16 points. Foster's old-fashioned 3-point play in the third quarter brought New Hope within a point, 40-39, and his monster dunk gave the Trojans (13-8 overall, 3-2 Class 5A, Region 2) a 49-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"The third quarter was huge for us," MacBrayer said.
West Point (13-9, 2-2) mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, but saw several wide open jumpers rim out. The unlucky bounces were compounded by poor shot selection against New Hope's zone defense.
"We had gotten down, and when you're down 10, every possession becomes that much more crucial," said West Point coach Brad Cox. "We took some bad shots because we were rushing. We needed to make the extra pass on some of those, but that panic comes in a road game and having inexperience."
Cox said foul trouble to front court players turned the tide in the first half, particularly against Sherrod and Foster.
"Our bigs got into foul trouble, and when that happened we had to go small. That hurt us on the boards and that was a big key down the stretch," he said. "The transition game wasn't there in the second half, either. In the first half, we were able to create some turnovers and get easy buckets. We like to get up and down, and in the second half we weren't able to do that.
West Point was led by AJ Jones, who scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
n New Hope girls 46, West Point 43: With three starters out due to injury, New Hope coach Laura Lee Holman wasn't sure how her team would fair against West Point.
Coming off an 87-50 loss to New Site on Saturday -- a game in which the same three starters were out -- Holman was keen to see her role players seize the moment in a tough district match. She got that and then some in a frenzied victory in Tuesday's opener.
Without DJ Sanders and Moesha Calmes, both of whom have been sidelined for a week and a half due to concussions, the Lady Trojans were desperate for ball handlers and scorers.
Kristin Phillips finished with 14 points, while Kaitlin Bradley added 12. Bradley's production was especially crucial in the first half, where she hit a pair of 3-pointers to help weather an initial run by West Point (8-13, 1-3). The Lady Trojans were without Phillips in the first half due to a first-half suspension by Holman.
And despite more than 20 turnovers, Holman learned something about her bench players.
"It wasn't very pretty, but we needed it," Holman said. "We have had a lot of games that have come easy to us. Saturday, we had a disappointing loss, and we looked a lot like we did tonight. I was hoping to see better execution tonight, but in the fourth quarter they found a way to win. Without four starters, I'm glad to walk away with a win.
"We've had some adversity this week without DJ and Mo," Holman added. "We had some kids play outside of their usual role, which is good. It'll really help us in the long run."
The Lady Trojans (18-3, 5-0) led by as many as seven inside two minutes and held off a scrappy West Point side that is still battling inexperience.
Like New Hope, West Point turned the ball over more than 20 times Tuesday. Carelessness like that has been a bugaboo for most of the season, though the Lady Wave's fourth-quarter effort Tuesday was a new revelation for coach Ken Pickens. His team overcame a pair of technical fouls, too, to get within a bucket of tying the game.
"All of that frustration comes from being young," Pickens said. "A lot of these girls, this is their first year playing high school basketball. Just learning to play on this level is big for us.
"They're starting to realize they can play with anyone," added Pickens, who noted his team's eight wins eclipses last year's total. "Tonight, we played all four quarters, and we've been lacking that. We missed some free throws and some stuff down low, but they took advantage of what they gave us. I'm proud of them."
Christy Clark had 14 points and Cristin Pharr added 12 points for West Point.
1. Caledonia powerlifting team wins another region title HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. West Point's Edwards, Knight will go to EMCC HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. NHHS junior high softball program will play first games Thursday HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Cold start dooms New Hope girls against Ridgeland HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. No. 2 Bulldogs play for share of SEC title tonight COLLEGE SPORTS