Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

Hopewell Snaps Two-Game Skid
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 12, 2013, 21:53

CHESTER As the Hopewell girls basketball team entered Thomas Dale's gym, they knew they faced a must-win. The Lady Blue Devils had dropped two in a row, both of the double-digit variety, and in front of them waited a winless opponent.

Yet, for the first 3:18 of game-action, it was Thomas Dale who looked to be the team to end a losing streak, jumping out to a 6-1 advantage on the strength of the inside presence of T'Keyah Banks.

But standing along the sideline, Blue Devils' head coach Leonard Jackson made an adjustment which jump-started a Hopewell defense that lacked tenacity. Jackson made the defensive switch from a half-court 2-3 zone to a full-court press and it paid immediate dividends.

The Lady Blue Devils began to force turnovers at a high-rate, leading to easy shots and a 10-5 run to end the quarter. The immediate ball-pressure and attacking offensive mentality exhibited for the final 4:42 of the first quarter foreshadowed what was to unfold as Hopewell captured a 67-44 road victory.

"We were in the 2-3 to start off and it made us lazy," Jackson said following the win. "We didn't get the concept of the 2-3 match-up, so I wanted to go to the press to get our blood moving, get that sweat and that was the difference."

However, that would be taking credit away from the effortless impact of Tyah Hunter.

The freshman guard has shown deft court-vision which belies her age, but it's her scoring which took center stage at Thomas Dale (0-6). Entering the contest averaging 16.7 points per game, Hunter out-did herself on this night.

It was Hunter who went on a personal 5-2 run to help the Lady Blue Devils (3-3) begin their comeback in the first quarter and it was Hunter finding open teammates in the open court for easy lay-ins.

"She's playing the point, running the offense and she's starting to let the game slow down to her," Jackson said of Hunter's 22-point effort. "So now she's moving at a faster pace than everyone else."

And while Jackson meant it in the figurative sense, Hunter showed off her actual physical quickness by running three-quarters of the court, corralling a loose ball before scoring an easy basket.

It showed the mark of a player willing to do anything to win a game.

"That's hustle. You can't coach that," Jackson said without hesitation. "That's hustle right there. That's desire and that's what you need."

But Hunter was not the only player on the court who showed the hustle which is slowly becoming a trademark of this young and talented Hopewell squad.

Daijah Jefferson routinely broke down the court for breakaway opportunities. Once a rebound was snatched by a teammate, she used her long strides to create separation for easy scoring chances, dropping in 15 points on the night.

Yet, as the game continued into its latter stages, the clear emotional leader of the team showed the type of effort the Blue Devils will need to continue to compete this season.

Tyvonna Canaday is one of three captains on the Lady Blue Devils and is also one of just a few players on the roster with previous game experience. on a roster. While the freshmen are even-keeled, not once showing much emotion until after the final buzzer, Canaday plays with her heart on her sleeve.

After Thomas Dale closed the deficit to 10 points late in the third period with an 8-0 run, it was Canaday who opened up a Hopewell run of her own.

The Lady Blue Devils answered the Lady Knights' run with an 11-2 run, pushing the lead back to 19 entering the final eight minutes. But most astonishing is Canaday tallied seven of Hopewell's 11 points during that run, highlighting her dominating ability.

"The scary part is she hasn't reached her potential yet," Jackson said of his sophomore starter. "She has to take us. She's going to take us as far as we go, her and Tyah."

It's hard not agree with Jackson's point after the game.

Canaday and Hunter accounted for 40 of the team's 67 points which equals 59 percent of their scoring output. Yet, add in Jefferson and the three-headed monster accounted for 55 of the points, highlighting the importance of the surrounding cast improving as the season moves along.

While Jackson knows he has a young team which has talent, it's also a team which could contend at this moment if they can grasp the nuisances of the game and develop quickly. If they do, the Lady Blue Devils can challenge opponents come conference tournament time just two months from now.

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