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GIRLS BASKETBALL: ‘D’ saves the day for Panthers

To say Massaponax didn’t execute its defensive game plan perfectly Wednesday night against Courtland may be a bit nit- picky.

The Panthers were successful on their overall objective, and that’s all that mattered. They used their quickness and athleticism to create a multitude of turnovers and generated just enough offense to scratch out a 50–40 victory, their first over the Cougars in three years.

“It wasn’t what we drew up exactly, but it worked out,” Massaponax coach Adam Brown said.

“We felt if we pressured their point guard [Kayla Demps], which is who they kept trying to get the ball back to under all circumstances, we figured there was a good chance of them making bad passes or at least we were hoping they would.”

That plan didn’t work all the time, but it came through with the game on the line. Courtland led 40–36 midway through the fourth quarter when Massaponax really dialed up the pressure.

The Panthers (6–5) caused three straight turnovers to spark a 14–0 run to end the game. Two of those takeaways were Cierra Wormley steals. Her first pilfer led to her own bucket to tie the score 40–40, and the second led to the go-ahead layup by Tamanya Jones.

Wormley scored all six of her points and came up with both of her steals in the final four minutes.

“It was our defense,” Wormley said when asked about what led to that final flurry of points. “And we had no turnovers. We took care of the ball.”

Avoiding turnovers was something Massaponax couldn’t do in its last game—a 70–19 loss to Colonial Forge on Saturday. The young Panthers played much better against the Cougars, who are callow themselves after graduating most of their key players from a team that made the past two Group AA, Division 4 state championship games.

“I think we’re a tough team to beat when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Brown said. “We haven’t had that day yet, but it’s coming.”

Brown said he’d like to see more production from his team’s offense, but he was pleased with the Panthers’ defense, which had 12 steals, including four each from Victoria Washington and Alexis Willis.

“I believe pressure bursts pipes. If you put pressure on people, they’re going to make mistakes,” Brown said.

The Panthers broke a six-game losing streak to their cross-county rivals. Massaponax freshman center Sabrina Jones wasn’t a part of any of those losses, but she didn’t need help recognizing how important the rivalry is.

“I wasn’t here last year to feel the whole experience, but it feels good to win,” Jones said. “I was here last year in the stands watching them get their butt kicked.”

Jones finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, numbers that could have been much better had she not sat out the entire second quarter in foul trouble. She received her third foul with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.

With Jones on the bench, Courtland was able to take advantage with seven points in the final two minutes of the second quarter, and it took a 24–21 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Brown was seen shaking his head in disgust as he led his team to the locker room. His message at halftime was effective.

“Coming out after halftime, after getting yelled at by your coaches, it gives you a different mindset,” Jones said. “We just had to come back, forget about the first half and come back strong in the second.”

Washington led all scorers with 13 points. Courtland’s Kiara Williams and Melody Buckley each finished with four points and 10 rebounds. Demps had six points and three steals.

Like the Panthers, the Cougars (6–2) have shown signs of promise—they won their first six games—but have also endured some growing pains this season.

Wednesday’s loss will be an important learning experience for Courtland, said first-year Cougars coach Laura Gast.

“We’ve just got to work on being stronger with the ball, and we’ll be all right,” Gast said. “We’re learning.”


Courtland 11 13 12 4 — 40

Massaponax 9 12 12 17 — 50


Courtland (6–2): Melody Buckley 5, Kayla Demps 6, Chasity Kay 2, Claire Lester 2, Gabby Michalick 4, Kyra Samuels 3, Allsion West 8, Kiara Williams 4, Sammi Woods 6. Totals: 19 1-4 40

Massaponax (6–5): Kayla Bowler 2, Emma Grosskopf 0, Sabrina Jones 10, Tamanya Jones 2, Tamara Moore 5, Victoria Washington 13, Alexis Willis 12, Cierra Wormley 6. Totals: 17 13-23 50

Three-point goals: Courtland 1 (K. Samuels). Massaponax 3 (S. Jones, T. Moore, V. Washington).

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442