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Defense, rebounding, offense and turnovers customarily win or lose high school varsity girls basketball games.
However, head coach Shawn Jefferson, in just his seventh game, credited cardio in his Community Christian School team’s 30-19 victory against winless Southside Christian of Clayton on Monday evening in Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf’s Barney Williamson Gym.
“We do a lot of cardio,” Jefferson said. “We work on it about an hour at every practice. We thought we could beat them by using our athleticism to get them tired. We have a deep bench of talented athletes.”
The Lady Cyclones shook off a 7-2 deficit and shut down Southside guard Alysa Dixon, a sophomore among five freshmen and two eighth-graders. CCS now stands 3-4 since Jefferson succeeded Mark Kent as head coach and owns a 5-9 overall record.
Southside, a first-year North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A member, dropped to 0-9.
The do-it-all Dixon managed 10 points in a performance that saw her demonstrate numerous basketball skills but struggle with her long-range shooting touch.
Cardio, as Jefferson said, and moving the zone defense farther out were critical.
“We knew (Dixon) was a great 3-point shooter,” Jefferson noted. “We kind of scouted her out the first quarter and, some things, she got away with2
“I just told the girls to go back to the zone and move the zone up higher. We wanted to make her put the ball on the floor and got her taking shots she normally doesn’t take.”
After seven first-quarter points, Dixon didn’t score again until the final minute.
The Lady Cyclones erased the 7-2 deficit with a 9-0 run and seized the lead for keeps at 8-7 on 6-foot sophomore Alexis Langley’s bucket. CCS extended a 11-9 edge after one quarter to 15-12 at halftime on junior Cheyenne Gardner’s layup.
CCS, also of the NCISAA 1-A ranks, took command with a 8-0 start to the second half that was led by sophomore Olivia Walker. The Lady Warriors could only manage a field goal from freshman Jenna McLean in the quarter after going scoreless the first five minutes.
The exhibition of airballs exceeding accurate shots continued the final quarter.
Gardner paced the fastbreak-effective Lady Cyclones with a game-high 11 points. Langley pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked four shots. Sophomore Abby Lenhart claimed 10 rebounds.
“We all like to win,” Gardner said, “but I’m OK with losing as long as we have fun. I think everyone on the team feels that way. It’s a lot better now — more improvement, more confidence, more teamwork. We’re playing a lot better as a team. Even when we were down tonight, everybody was supporting each other.”
And thanks to cardio, the zone defense and sharper passing, CCS didn’t stay down long.
SOUTHSIDE CHRISTIAN (19)
Collins, Al. Dixon 10, Au. Dixon, Willilalms 3, Nixon 4, McLean 2, Gianopulos, Sheperd.
COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN (30)
Walker 4, Langley 5, Manning 1, Lee 1,Strange, Webb 2, Lenhart 6, Gardner 11.
Score by quarters:
Southside Christian 9 3 2 5 — 19
CCS 11 4 11 4 — 30