January 17, 2010 12:35:00 AM
The district race in one half of Class 5A, Region 2, District 1 got a little closer Friday night.
Junior Kelsei Ewings scored a game-high 27 points to lead a three-pronged attack that helped the West Point High School girls basketball team beat New Hope 66-58 in Columbus.
In the boys game, Johnathan Brandon had a game-high 21 points to lead New Hope to a 53-45 victory.
Senior Courtney Crowley had 20 points and sophomore Wilma Davis added 12 to help the Lady Green Wave improve to 10-4 and 2-1 in the district. The victory also helped West Point take the first of two meetings against New Hope and rebound from a district loss to Oxford at home Tuesday.
The Lady Green Wave used a full-court trap to pester the Lady Trojans. The pressure defense helped turn a 36-34 deficit near the end of the third quarter into a 45-39 lead after a layup by Davis off a turnover with 5 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the game.
"I like to alternate with the pressure sometimes so my kids can last, but if we play this hard and as smart as we could, if we could pressure them it would help us a lot," West Point coach Jemmye Ann Helms said. "It ended up working for us."
The lead fluctuated from four to nine points the rest of the way as the teams shot 22 free throws in the final 1:59.
West Point also received strong efforts from Ashley Spraggins, Yakira Edwards, and Satonya Cantrell. Helms said the Lady Green Wave have had their most success when they don''t force things or rush their game. She said a more deliberate attitude allows West Point to capitalize on the balance it has in the backcourt with Ewings and in the frontcourt with Crowley and Davis.
"With Wilma stepping up and playing strong inside that has taken a lot of the pressure off Courtney because at some points in the season if we couldn''t get it into Courtney we would have a little trouble," Helms said. "Wilma is coming along. She needs to develop the strength and her shot going to the rim a little more fierce."
Rachel Hollivay paced New Hope (10-6) with 17 points. Kelli Petty added 14 points, Kia Edmonds had 13, and D.J. Sanders added nine.
n New Hope 53, West Point 45 (B): Both teams tried to make things tougher on themselves than they needed to, but the Trojans (16-1) finally settled down, slowed down, and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Two free throws by Lakin Petty (15 points) cut New Hope''s lead to 43-41 with 3:59 to play, but the Trojans used an offensive rebound putback by Brandon and a layup by Davis Lee (13 points) off a screen and roll pass from Brandon to kick the margin to 47-41 with 2:55 to go.
New Hope hit 6 of 10 free throws in the final 2:33 to help seal the deal.
New Hope coach Drew McBrayer liked the way his team found its rhythm and worked its five-out motion offense, especially in the second half, but he cautioned the Trojans can''t get overconfident.
"There''s still a lot left to do," McBrayer said. "I know the record says 16-1, but you can''t believe everything you see. You have to keep working. To be able to get to where we want, which is to be in the playoffs and to make a run at Jackson, we''re going to have to rebound the ball better, make free throws, which we have struggled at, and (play better) defensively. At times we play well (on defense), but at times we get lazy."
Jamal Richardson had nine points and Raymond Walters added eight for New Hope.
Gary Hughes added 12 points for West Point, which missed too many shots in the lane in the first half and had turnover problems in the second half.
"We''re playing too hard to try to win a game," said West Point coach Winston Varnado, whose team has won three games this season and slipped to 1-2 in the district. "Guys are working hard to win games, but we just can''t make things happen and we can''t get the easy stuff going."
Varnado said the little things -- not boxing out, missed defensive assignments -- are hurting his team, but he said the Green Wave have a little more time to correct those areas.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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