Hopewell Rolls Over Generals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 9, 2014, 23:57
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — After seeing their two-game winning-streak come to an end Tuesday night, Hopewell's Lady Blue Devils stepped on Bill Littlepage court to reestablish their winning ways. However, after 2:58 of game-action, things were not going Hopewell's way.
The Lady Blue Devils lost the opening tip and Dinwiddie wasted no time in attacking the young and inexperienced squad. The Lady Generals took a commanding 8-2 lead while forcing Hopewell into five turnovers in the span, seemingly foreshadowing what was to come.
Yet, the Lady Blue Devils would respond with an 8-3 run to end the first quarter, cutting the deficit to just two points, swinging momentum in their favor for the rest of the contest. Over the next 24 minutes, Hopewell showcased their dominance in a 50-37 win.
"I think we finally settled down and picked up our intensity," Hopewell head coach Leonard Jackson said following the game. "That's all we've been stressing the last few weeks. Let us be the aggressors."
While the Lady Blue Devils (7-6) did not jump out of the gates right away like Jackson hoped, they soon turned it around in epic fashion. In fact, spanning the end of the second quarter and all of the third quarter — a 12:13 time-frame— Hopewell executed a dominating 27-to-9 run.
During the run, Hopewell turned the ball over just seven times while harassing the Lady Generals (1-9) on every defensive possession, resulting in bad-shots and easy rebounds. It's the aspect which was missing early in the first quarter, but following a timeout, Jackson implored his team to adjust defensively.
He aimed for better rotations to cut off the penetrating drives of Dinwiddie, essentially turning them into a perimeter-orientated team. It paid dividends in what was the best span of basketball Hopewell has played all season.
"The one thing we've been preaching lately is to get on runs," Jackson said of the team's mentality during the stretch. "We want to be a team that goes on runs and finishes people. So we called a timeout early in the quarter and the main focus was to make a run."
But there would not have been a run without the play of Daijah Jefferson in the low-blocks.
While the freshman is prone to mistakes — turning the ball over or traveling — she can be a dominant force when she's on her game. During the game-changing run, Jefferson tallied 10 of her team-high 19 points on the night.
Yet, her impact was not just felt on the offensive side of the ball, but also on the defensive end. Entering the game, Jefferson was averaging a double-double with 10.8 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game, but she also is an intimidator in the paint swatting away 3.5 shots per contest.
Against Dinwiddie, Jefferson swatted away numerous shots, each with more ferocity than the next. It put such a fear in the Lady Generals' players that when Tamia Johnson ran the court in transition, the mere sight of Jefferson in the lane forced her into taking a jump-shot instead of attacking the rim.
"It's big," Jackson said of her presence. "She's a freshman, but once she lets the game slow down for her, the sky's the limit."
However, Jefferson was not alone in this game.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Fellow freshman Tyah Hunter, the team's leading scorer at 16.6 points per game, displayed her calm demeanor on the court while also supplying the offense Hopewell needed.
With her ability to create off the dribble, Hunter was too much for the Generals to handle in the paint as she piled up 16 points on the night. Yet, it was her ability to slow down the Hopewell offense and run the set-plays which really stood out in her performance.
"All I can say is hard-work," Jackson said of his freshman leader. "She never misses a practice. She's always on time. She's always in the gym and it's paying off. She's still not quite there yet, though, I'm waiting for her to turn the corner."
But it also speaks volumes about her ability in the way she elevates the play of those around her. Imani Vaughn tallied 7 points in the win, nailing a few outside shots as Hunter drew the defense in.
However, even in the win, the Lady Blue Devils showed this is still just part of a process after turning the ball over 23 times, but also showing resiliency in overcoming their miscues.
"We are all about progress," Jackson said. "The goal is by the time we are in the conference tournament, we want to go in with a good seeding and click at the right time."
Little by little, progress is being made. The talent is there for the Lady Blue Devils to experience success, but mental errors still plague the young squad. They have five weeks left to eliminate the miscues from their play and enter conference tournament time on a high-note.