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Lady Bulldogs handle North Central in opener, 54-27

Posted: November 29, 2018 11:13 a.m.
Updated: November 30, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

NORTH CENTRAL’S PEYTON HOLLEY drives toward the basket while being chased by Camden’s Joyce Edwards in Tuesday’s season opener played at The Castle in Boonetown.

Staring down at an already thin bench and with the game officials seemingly racking up bonus points for whistling fouls, Camden girls’ basketball coach Natalie Jeffcoat was justifiably concerned as to how Tuesday’s season opener at North Central would unfold.

With starters Imani Wyatt (ankle) and Zy’Aja Cook (illness) not in uniform and with La’Tarya Brisbon suffering a night-ending ankle injury in the second quarter, the visiting Lady Bulldogs were down to seven healthy players. Fortunately, the ones they had supplied more than enough firepower in a 54-27 win over the Lady Knights.

Focusing their defensive efforts on NC’s top two scorers, senior Kali Tomlin and junior Peyton Holley, the guests were never threatened after turning a 9-6 first quarter advantage into a 24-12 lead at halftime. As for Tomlin and Holley, they combined for all but two of their team’s points, led by Holley’s 14.

Camden countered with the trio of Ja Teanna Lee, Joyce Edwards and Tiyana Peterson, who scored 47 points led by 19 from Lee, a sophomore guard. Edwards, a six-foot seventh-grader added 16 in her varsity debut while Peterson, the Lady Bulldogs’ lone returning starter, added a dozen points.

Tomlin and Holley have been NC’s two leading scorers the past two seasons. With a team as young as hers, Jeffcoat wanted to make sure her defense limited the damage inflicted by the Lady Knights’ duo.

“That was definitely our focus the last couple days; finding them on the court wherever they were at all times and making sure we had accounted for them,” Jeffcoat said. “If they were making shots, hopefully, they would be tough shots with a hand in their face.”

While NC will look to Tomlin and Holley for point production, second-year Lady Knights’ head coach David Dawson said he needs other players from his eight-girl roster to step up and provide more balanced scoring so that opposing defenses do not take a page from Camden’s script.

“The way our offense and defense is designed,” he said, “is for all five players to be involved. But Kali and Peyton are, clearly, the two biggest pieces of our offense. We do rely heavily on them. 

“We are supposed to have a more balanced attack than what we have right now. There are just a few things that we have to clean up on the offensive end to get everyone playing with a little more confidence.”

Tomlin got the hostesses within a point when her 12-foot runner closed the gap to 13-12 at the 4:42 mark of the second quarter. Camden responded by closing the first half on an 11-0 run starting with Edwards finding Nyla Jackson alone under the basket for an easy pair. Edwards added two baskets of her own in a closing run which included a Jackson stickback and an eight-foot jumper from Lee to help the Lady Bulldogs stretch their lead to 24-12 at the break.

 Camden came out in a zone which gave the Lady Knights fits. Edwards all but shadowed the shorter Holley while Peterson virtually shadowed Tomlin’s every move.

“Joyce (Edwards) was at the top of our zone which is like a match-up zone,” Jeffcoat said of her team’s defensive scheme. “Joyce is long, quick and tough to see around up there. She gets her hands on a lot of passes which gives us a chance to make plays behind her.”

Another facet of the CHS defense was that the taller visitors limited NC to one-and-done on offense in not allowing a second-chance basket as the Lady Bulldogs dominated things under the glass. Dawson said he knew rebounding on both ends of the floor would not be his team’s long suit coming into the season.

“Our lack of size in the post really hurt us tonight. That’s something we’re going to have to focus on,” he said. “We just need to do a little better job as a team of rebounding, given that we don’t have many post players this year.”

“I thought we did a nice job on the boards which was one of the things we talked about coming into this game,” Jeffcoat said. “We wanted to limit them to one shot. We’re definitely at our best when we’re able to make the outlet pass and get something going in transition.”

Camden opened the second half on an 8-2 spree interrupted only by a Holley drive to the hole while grabbing a 32-14 lead which was trimmed to 32-18 after Holley scored four straight points in a span of 58 seconds.

The Lady Bulldogs started salting this one away with Edwards using a pair of layins and a free throw to go along with a Peterson drive to carry a commanding 39-20 advantage into a final stanza in which Lee outscored NC by herself, 11-7.

The combination of having picked up eight fouls in the first quarter combined with players such as Edwards and Lee getting their feet wet in varsity competition made for an anxious night on the bench for Jeffcoat.

 “It was a huge concern,” Jeffcoat said of her team’s early foul trouble. “We were down to seven players when we had (Brisbon) go down on crutches in the first half. We’re also missing Zy Cook and Imani Wyatt. The refs had an awfully quick whistle early. I was definitely concerned.

“We’re just so young. We had two kids out there who had never played at this level before. It’s going to be a work in progress for us. We have to be patient. They’re getting thrown out there into a situation which they wouldn’t have been in this early. Maybe, down the road, that will help us.”

For Dawson, this was a season-opener which, he said, his girls will use as a learning tool. For the present, the Lady Knights gave their head coach all they could.

“This is going to help us, a lot. These are moments that you can grow from,” he said. “Sometimes, there’s a silver lining, even in a loss. We have things that we can take back to the drawing board and review so that we can continue to get better.

“I’m extremely proud of the way my girls didn’t give up. We got down big early but, they continued to fight which is a big thing. I was proud of the fact that we played with pride all night.”

CHS (54): Tiyana Peterson 5 2-4 12, Joyce Edwards 6 4-6 16, Ja Teanna Lee 9 1-2 19, Nyla Jackson 2 0-0 4, Amarhi Boykin 0 1-2 1, Kendra White 1 0-0 2, Shytianna Green 0 0-1 0. Totals: 23 8-17 54

NC (27): Kali Tomlin 3 4-7 11, Peyton Holley 5-4-12 14, Melanie Hackworth 0 2-2 2. Totals: 8 10-21 27

Score by quarters: First: CHS, 9-6; Halftime: CHS, 24-12; Third: CHS, 39-20; Three-point goals: CHS none, NC 1 (Tomlin)

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