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The application of full-court pressure defense in the Tiffany Parks era of Hunt High varsity girls basketball is the unquestioned identity of the Lady Warriors.
But even some dictatorships can have moments of benevolence during the holiday season.
With the Lady Warriors playing their sixth game, but first at home, in 10 days Friday night against Smithfield-Selma, Hunt sat back in zone defense and picked its moments to extend its weary legs with timely half-court trapping.
Despite a performance that Parks termed “flat” in the opening half, Hunt picked it up over the final 16 minutes, going on a 14-0 run to close the third quarter in the Lady Warriors’ eventual 61-39 victory.
Hunt of the 3-A Big East Conference improved to 6-2 and will host county rival Beddingfield next Friday in its final tuneup for the Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament. Smithfield-Selma, playing in its final game before serving as the out-of-town guest in the FFHT, fell to 3-5.
“I call it flat,” Parks said of Hunt’s first-half showing. “Because we’re a very up-tempo team, and we’re a very aggressive team. So for us to get kind of flat is uncharacteristic.”
Despite that, Hunt never trailed in the contest and did enough functionally without its trademark chaos to keep the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference Lady Spartans at bay. The Lady Warriors forced Smithfield-Selma into 16 turnovers and turned the majority of those giveaways into layups from junior Bria Griffith, senior Tatiana Smith and junior Imani Sutton. Hunt was persistent in getting second-chance opportunities, outrebounding SSS 35-21 and collecting a number of rebounds off its own missed free throws. Despite getting to the foul line with proficiency in the first half, the Lady Warriors only finished 6 of 19 from the line — a possible symptom of taxed legs. Missed layups at the end of runouts from Hunt kept the final margin from being worse.
“We’ve had three games this week,” Parks said. “This is the third game, and we had three last week. We’re on a six-game stretch and five were away. I think they’re playing hard, but they’ve been tired. We did try a half-court pressure, that way it wasn’t a full court. We pressed a little, but I think the legs just weren’t there.”
Sutton had a game-high 17 for Hunt and helped separate the Lady Warriors during their 14-0 spurt to end the third quarter. Her second-chance putback off a missed shot closed out the third quarter and finished off a run where she also added a pair of 3-pointers. Sutton netted 10 of her 17 in the third quarter.
“We just wasn’t ready to be playing yet,” Sutton said of the Lady Warriors’ first half. “We had to get pumped after halftime. Coach talked to us, and we talked to each other and pumped each other up.”
As Hunt led 24-15 in the second quarter, the Spartans briefly threatened, using consecutive 3-pointers from Zniah Thaggard and Dani Jackson to trim the advantage to a single possession. However, Hunt, off turnovers and transition play, closed the first half on an 8-0 run to lead 32-21. Smithfield-Selma crept no closer than eight points in the third quarter before Hunt closed the third on a 21-3 tear.
The inability to rebound on both ends of the floor didn’t sit well with Smithfield-Selma head coach Billy Lassiter.
“We didn’t rebound well at all,” Lassiter said. “I told them, if we didn’t rebound against this team, we will be put out of the gym by 20 points. You turn it over, they come back.”
Griffith had 14 points as the second Hunt player in double figures, while adding six rebounds, five assists and four steals. As a team, the Lady Warriors had 15 steals and assisted on 14 of their field goals. Smith added 12 points.
Khaliyah Peacock led Smithfield-Selma with 14 points, including four 3-pointers in the second half.
“We’re a young team, but that’s no excuse,” Lassiter said. “We didn’t play together as a team in that third quarter, and it cost us.”
Hunt’s biggest lead came of 26 came at the conclusion of the third quarter as it owned a 53-27 lead.
“I felt like we still could have done better,” Parks said. “So we’ve got some work to do in practice. We’ve got a tough game coming up in the Christmas tournament (versus Fike), so we just really need to stay focused.
Thaggard 8, Reddick, Lassiter, Peacock 14, Hill, Santos 6, Hawkins, Moody 4, Jackson 7, Forte, Tedder, Poston, Bryant.
Griffith 14, Jones 4, Thorpe, Rushing 4, Carlton 4, Norris, Spells 4, Smith 12, Sutton 17, Lucas 2, Ellis, Mercer.
Score by quarters:
Smithfield-Selma 11 10 6 12 — 39
Hunt 17 15 21 8 — 61