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New Hope plays for region titles tonight


Adam Minichino



Leave it to a coach not to be satisfied with a 30-point victory. 


But Laura Lee Holman has a bigger picture in mind, which is why she wasn't in the best of moods even as she watched her New Hope High School girls basketball team beat Saltillo 66-36 in the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 tournament. 


Most of Holman's displeasure stemmed from the fact her team wasn't communicating, wasn't rotating on defense, wasn't executing on offense ... you get the idea. Even though Holman is nearly five years removed from her playing days at Troy University, she has been around the sport long enough to know coaches and players never can be satisfied, especially when things come easily. 


"When you are up 31-6, you have to keep playing like that," Holman said. "Even the 31-6 to me wasn't a great effort. We fouled a lot, we weren't able to keep the ball in front of us, a lot of our fouls came from our help side having to help side so much, and they weren't really helping as early as they should have been. It was just basic things we work on every day, like transition defense. We just didn't look very good. Thankfully, we get the win and where we can head the next two days at practice to prepare for Oxford." 


Holman and the Lady Trojans spent the past two days in practicing ironing out their "problems." The test of how well they did will come at 6 tonight when New Hope (23-4) plays host to Oxford (20-5) in the region title game. The New Hope boys will play host to Oxford at 7:30 p.m. in the second game. All four teams have qualified for the Class 5A North State playoffs. Tonight's winners will earn the right to play host to a first-round playoff game. 


In a classification packed with quality teams from the Jackson area, landing on the "right" side of the bracket can make your plans for a long playoff run a little more challenging. That's why Holman wanted to get right back to work to address the things that irritated her so Tuesday night. As coaches often do, she called timeouts at unlikely moments when the half-court offense stalled or her players didn't run a play the right way. Even though New Hope defeated Oxford twice in the regular season, Holman knows the Lady Chargers will be ready to handle her team's depth and its full-court defense. 


"To beat Oxford, it is going to have to be e four-quarter game, and we're going to have to play just as hard in the fourth quarter as we do in the first quarter," Holman said. "To win a district championship or a playoff game, that is what you have to do. If you don't play four quarters, you will get beat." 


Holman feels her team has learned those lessons all season. The trouble is focus can wane when things come quickly and almost effortlessly. Games like that probably won't happen again, which is what Holman told her players in the locker room after the Saltillo game. 


Junior D.J . Sanders said Holman has been stressing the "little things" all season because this is the time of the year where they will really matter. 


"A lot of the teams we play that we're better than and we don't work hard, we're not doing the little things but they don't show up," Sanders said. "We're up 30 at halftime and all you hear is coach Holman yelling at us and you're thinking, 'Why is she yelling at us because we're up by 1,000? She is yelling at us because we're not doing the little things we're supposed to be doing and we're not executing the little things like boxing out or playing good defense." 


Senior Antonia Jethroe said Holman is "trying very hard" to get that consistency out of the Lady Trojans. The first test of her effectiveness will come tonight. 


"We have all the potential in the world," Jethroe said. "Our coach makes us better. She is a ggreat coach. She tries to help us out and go far." 


Sanders said it isn't a challenge for New Hope to play like Holman demands. In fact, she said the team has to get a little more confident and believe it is capable of playing focused, disciplined basketball for 32 minutes. 


Sanders hopes the the Lady Trojans can prove that tonight to get a chance to play again on their home floor. 


"It is everybody doing it at the same time," Sanders said. "If one person boxes out and the other four players don't box out and the other team gets the rebound,it looks like nobody boxed out. It is everybody, every single play, every time, doing the little things. 


"We could be a little more confident. A lot of teams that beat us we feel like they were better than us and we got intimidated. We're trying to work on that and going out there with championship character and going out there ad beating the team you play instead of just playing a team. I hope it is going to come. I feel it is."


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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