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Prep Girls Basketball: In super duos match, Cougars win Round 1

COURTLAND WINS KEY DISTRICT

CONTEST OVER SPOTSYLVANIA

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

THE FREE LANCE–STAR

The Spotsylvania girls basketball team entered its Battlefield District showdown with Courtland boasting the high-scoring duo of Bria Carter and Kortni Simmons.

The Cougars knew if they contained at least one half of the combo, there was a good chance they’d win the battle of the last two unbeaten Battlefield teams.

Simmons scored 24 points, but Carter was held to eight. And the Courtland tandem of Janae McNeal and Jessica Hairston exploded for a combined 50 points as the Cougars cruised to a 69–40 victory Friday night at Spotsylvania High School.

“It’s nice to play some players that are good offensive players to give us a challenge defensively,” Courtland head coach J.T. Nino said. “Obviously we took it serious on the defensive end and that really was the difference.”

The offensive contributions from McNeal and Hairston were big for Courtland (9–0, 3–0 Battlefield), as well.

McNeal scored a game-high 29 points. Hairston added 21.

McNeal, the 2011–12 Free Lance–Star Player of the Year, played in her typically efficient manner. She scored on an array of short jumpers and drives to the basket.

But Nino said Hairston has made major strides from her junior to senior year. With older brother and Duke junior forward Josh Hairston watching from the stands, she scored 12 first-quarter points to help Courtland race to a 24–6 lead.

“I feel like since I have been working so hard, my confidence has gone up with the shots that I take,” Hairston said. “I take better shots. I take smarter shots, and I’m playing a lot smarter.”

Nino said Hairston’s defense on Carter was a key to the victory, too.

The veteran coach said the Cougars typically don’t gear their defense toward stopping one player. But he knew the Knights (6–1, 2–1) rely on the speed of Carter and Simmons. So he wanted to make sure to pressure them away from the basket.

“We adjusted our personnel based on where they like to play,” Nino said. “They like to play outside, so we put some quicker people on them. Jess did a real nice job containing [Carter]. But she’s a good player, so I’m sure she’ll be back.”

Friday night’s game was a barometer for the Knights.

They went 3–18 last year after Carter went down with a torn ACL in the first game of the season. Head coach Warren Tyler wanted to see how the Knights measured up against a team with four starters returning from a state championship game appearance.

“Hopefully this will show us that we need to play as a team,” Tyler said. “That’s the main thing I took out of this. We need to trust each other.”

Spotsylvania visits Orange Thursday in the Hornets’ holiday tournament. Courtland, which has won 39 of its past 40 games, travels to Norfolk today to take on Group AAA power Maury. Nino said Maury is considered one of the favorites to win a state title in its classification.

“I’m excited to play them,” McNeal said. “I love playing good teams and I hear they’re a good team. So that’ll definitely be a good challenge for us.”

    Courtland 24 12 13 20 — 69

    Spotsylvania 6 15 9 10 — 40

    Scoring

    Courtland (9–0, 3–0): Arianna Bradley 2, Melody Buckley 0, Kayla Demps 7, Imani Fennell 10, Jessica Hairston 21, Janae McNeal 29. Totals: 25 15-19 69

    Spotsylvania (6–1, 2–1): Makayla Baker 0, Bria Carter 8, Shatia Johnson 6, Chelsey McCabe 2, Kortni Simmons 24. Totals: 15 7-12 40

    Three-point goals: Courtland 4 (K. Demps, J. Hairston 2, J. McNeal). Spotsylvania 3 (K. Simmons 3).

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/sports/2012/12/22/prep-girls-basketball-in-super-duos-match-cougars-win-round-1/

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