Defense propels Lady Tigers 67-23
by Jaylon Thompson
After a slow start, the Fayette County Lady Tigers reverted to their calling card of exhausting defense as they defeated the Morrow Mustangs 67-23 on Monday night.
The Tigers flustered the Mustangs with half-court pressure and forced them to commit 26 turnovers in the game. The stingy defense resulted in Morrow scoring just 13 points after halftime and giving Fayette its seventh win of the season.
“We were playing a little slow tonight and we wanted to pick up the pace a little bit,” Coach John Strickland said. “We thought we could get a little more pressure on them.”
The key to the defensive pressure started with sophomore Naomi Franco. The six-foot-three center didn’t play in the first quarter, but made her presence felt with several blocks in the post.
Franco finished with 5 points and altered several of Morrow’s shots at the rim. She also used her length to control the glass and limit Morrow to one possession.
“It was huge as she went in and controlled the boards and got a lot of blocks,” Strickland said. “That is what she brings to the game.”
As a result, Fayette decided to play through Franco in the post. The Tigers got easy shots as the Mustangs focused their attention on stopping her from scoring inside.
This opened scoring opportunities for the dynamic backcourt duo of seniors Maegan Barkley and Trinity Brown. Both players constantly attacked the middle of the Mustang defense for easy baskets.
Barkley finished with 18 points, including seven in the first quarter. She also provided highlight plays with smooth layups around the rim. Brown chipped in 13 points and hit a couple of 3-pointers to extend the lead in the second half.
“They are seniors and they have been playing together since middle school,” Strickland said. “They worked together really good in the game.”
With the game in hand, Strickland decided to give several of his players a chance in the game. He played his entire bench and evaluated how different lineups would play together. He believes that the experience will help later in Region 3 AAAAA play.
“I am trying to get in bench and trying to work that. You have to trust them and let them play,” Strickland said.
Fayette will be back in action on December 15 against Chapel Hill. It will be a road game and a big test to see how the team will respond early in the season.
“It’s early in the season and you want to see what you got,” Strickland said. “They all come to practice and play hard.”
Fayette boys show resiliency in 68-61 win over Morrow
Fayette County boys’ basketball coach Andre Flynn described the Tigers’ 68-61 win over the Morrow Mustangs on Monday night in two words.
“Mental Toughness,” Flynn said.
In a tightly-contested Class AAAAA Region 3 game, the Tigers found themselves down early to the Mustangs. Led by senior center Darius Smith, Morrow was aggressive in the first quarter and jumped out to an 8-2 lead before fans could settle into their seats.
Smith scored four quick points as Morrow’s fast-paced offense controlled the game’s tempo. This resulted in the Mustangs getting easy baskets while forcing Fayette to commit several defensive mistakes.
The frantic pace forced the Flynn to call a quick timeout to calm his team down. He also employed a half-court trap to counteract Mustangs’ initial run.
“They were killing us going to the basket,” Flynn said. “So, we wanted to trap and get the ball out of the main ball-handler’s hands. We kind of did that a little bit as we had to change up some things.”
The decision worked as Fayette got back into the game behind seven first-quarter points from junior guard Jordan Brown. Brown ignited the offensive attack and helped Fayette close out the first frame in a 11-11 tie.
In the second quarter, Fayette continued to find their stride. The Tigers scored 20 points and took a 31-26 lead into halftime. They wouldn’t look back as they rode the hot hand of junior guard Ricky Knight to their fifth win of the season.
Knight took over in the third quarter and poured in 19 points for the game. He also chipped in with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.
Knight’s play made things easier for his teammates and impressed Flynn in the process. Flynn said that the team relies on Knight’s scoring and he was proud to see him step up in key situations.
“He is one of the guys that we count on and one of my scorers,” Flynn said. “We got to constantly stay on Ricky (Knight). When he is playing at the top of his game, he can stroke the ball.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Knight used his sweet stroke to knock down two clutch free throws to extend a late lead. He later grabbed a key steal to seal the victory for the Tigers.
Fayette will need more performances from Knight and players like sophomore JeKobe Coleman, who scored 13 points, if they want to make a return trip to the Final Four.
Flynn knows that a win over a tough Morrow team is a good start. Now he hopes the team can continue to learn as the season goes deeper into region play.
“We are young and we are going to have our ups and downs,” Flynn said. “We are going to do some stuff that is crazy, then we are going to look good, and then look great. That comes with a young team.”
The Tigers will take a three-game winning streak into a road game against Marietta High School on December 15.
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