February 25, 2014 2:29:14 PM
The lessons come a little faster at this time of the year.
But Taylor Baudoin is doing everything she can to help make sure the New Hope High School girls basketball team is up for the challenge.
That's why the senior forward wasn't ready to give up on a deflection that could have gone for a layup. After all, New Hope was mired in one of those cold shooting nights when looks at the basket that often come effortlessly suddenly become a chore, so Baudoin could have shrugged her shoulders and allowed the deflection to go uncontested to Center Hill's Teirsten Saunders, who likely would have converted it for a layup.
Playoff basketball demands more, and that's what Baudoin gave, turning quickly to block the shot and corral the rebound. Baudoin didn't stop on the baseline. She turned up court to lead a fastbreak and found Kaitlin Bradley for a layup that gave the Lady Trojans the lead in the third quarter, their first since the opening eight minutes.
"I think that was the first time we attacked and we got the and-one," New Hope coach Laura Lee Holman said. "I think they were like, 'Oh, OK. She is right. She does know what she was talking about. That was definitely a huge momentum swing for us, the huge block by Taylor, the way she scrapped to save the ball and then somehow, someway got the ball to Kaitlin Bradley. Then Kaitlin, who struggled at (the offensive end), went strong to the basket. That is kind of what got the monkey off our back and helped us believe we could do this."
New Hope used the momentum from that play to re-take the lead at the end of the third quarter en route to a 48-32 victory in the opening round of the Class 5A North State tournament.
New Hope (27-2) will take on Pearl, which defeated Neshoba Central on Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Clarksdale High. Clarksdale eliminated Oxford 55-45 on Tuesday and will play host to Canton, which eliminated Vicksburg on Tuesday, at 6 p.m. Friday. The winners will advance to the title game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
D.J. Sanders led New Hope with 19 points, while Baudoin had 13, Moesha Calmes added 10 and Kaitlin Bradley had six. Those four players were the only ones who scored for New Hope, which played without post player LaClaudia Keaton, who injured her ankle Friday in a victory against Oxford.
New Hope could have used Keaton's post presence Monday night because it suffered through a cold shooting evening in which it had numerous open looks that failed to fall. But Baudoin and a suffocating defense bailed the Lady Trojans out.
"I told them, 'Guys, I feel we have learned this lesson,' " Holman said, referring to the game against Oxford in which the team trailed 24-12 at halftime. "Let's not go back in the second half and do my Xs and Os and that will help, too. If you will keep the defense, they are going to crack. I felt like when I said that they kind of said, 'OK.' Keeping the ball out of No. 3's hands (Golden), especially down the stretch, helped. I credit Mercedes Mattix with that. She kind of had that job. Our defense is our heart and soul, and we have to lean on its when things aren't going our way in the half-court offense."
Baudoin took Holman's focus on defense to heart. Trailing 27-26 with a little more than two minutes to play in the second quarter, New Hope was looking for a spark. It started to show signs of making a push, but it wasn't until Baudoin's block, push, and hustle that the Lady Trojans kicked their game into high gear.
"For just a split second I thought the play was over," Baudoin said. "I thought the ball would be going out of bounds, but I saw that she got the ball and I knew I had to recover and do what I needed to do."
After the game, Baudoin could smile because she knew that she had three fouls at the time and that her "risky" play could have resulted in a fourth foul and erased the fastbreak that gave the team the lead. Fortunately, Baudoin's instincts took over and brought some good fortune on an evening in which little went right for the Lady Trojans.
"It gave us a little bit of momentum, and I felt that," Baudoin said. "We picked it up and we came out with a win."
Center Hill coach Jonathan Moore said New Hope's experience (eight seniors) played a big part in the Lady Trojans' ability to overcome their cold shooting. Aside from Ole Miss signee Kiara Golden, who had 10 of her 15 points in the first half, Center Hill (20-9) went large stretches of the game with three sophomores, a freshman, and a junior. He said New Hope didn't do anything differently or better on its press in the second half, when his team scored only eight points and committed 12 turnovers.
"I think we got in a hurry and started playing ball that we didn't play in the first half and got away from the game plan," Moore said. "They are good. They didn't change anything. We screwed up."
In the first half, New Hope's struggles from the perimeter prevented it from getting into its pressure defense. Center Hill capitalized by attacking New Hope's 2-3 zone defense with a player at the foul line. Many times, that player was open for an open shot or was able to beat the defense with a pass or a move to the rim.
Center Hill didn't have time to find the gaps in the second half. It hardly had time to do anything as the wearing effect of the pressure defense ramped the marathon into a sprint, which is just the pace New Hope wants to play.
"They were the better team," Moore said. "Our Achilles' heel was scoring. We got shots and we broke the press, but we didn't score."
n Pickens Academy 5, Sumter Academy 3: At Carrollton, Ala., Preston Pogue allowed no earned runs in four innings of relief Monday to lead the Pirates (1-2) to a victory in their home opener.
Pogue struck out three and walked two. He allowed one run.
Lance Acker was 2-for-2 with an RBI, and Josh Lewis was 1-for-2 with a triple and two RBIs.
Pickens Academy will play host to Marengo Academy on Thursday.
n Pickens Academy 11, Sumter Academy 0: Shelby Lowe struck out 10, allowed three hits, and walked only one to get the victory for the Lady Pirates.
Lauren Duckworth was 4-for-4 with three runs and an RBI. Lizzie Shirley was 2-for-4 with four RBIs, Kacy Noland was 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Anna Cockrell was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.