The Washington County Commanderettes (2-7, 1-4) went up against the defending state champion in the Marion County Lady Knights (7-7) this past Saturday night, and it showed.
The Knights jumped out to a 15-4 lead to start the game and never looked back. The Commanderettes cut their deficit to 12 by halftime, but the damage had already been done.
Marion would go on to win by a score of 52-39.
Despite losing several key players from last year’s squad, WC Head Coach Bernard Smalley said that this year’s version of the Knights is still deadly.
“They don’t have all the same players, but they’re returning some key players from a state championship team,” Smalley said. “They’re still a tough team to go up against.”
Smalley noted that, even though his team lost, he was impressed with how his team was able to handle Marion’s trademark full-court press.
“They’re always going to press you, on a make or miss, doesn’t matter,” Smalley said. “But for the most part, I think the girls did a good job of beating the press. That was a strength for us because Marion loves to score off turnovers. I thought we held them from doing that.”
Smalley attributed most of his team’s lack of success on the inability to finish their shots.
“We just missed a lot of easy shots we should have made,” Smalley said. “That was probably the biggest difference in the game.”
Smalley pointed out sophomore Lexi Thompson’s performance in the loss as the team’s bright spot.
“Lexi has been playing some excellent basketball since we came back from the break,” Smalley said. “That’s going to be a big plus for us down the stretch.”
The Commanderettes’ next game will be Saturday night as they travel to Marion County to play in the Autism Classic.
The Commanderettes’ last matchup, which was also against the Bethlehem Banshees (3-6, 1-3), was a heartbreaking two-point loss at the buzzer.
But, as WC found out on Friday night with a 54-42 win, revenge is sweet.
The game started off as a back-and-forth affair with five lead changes in the opening quarter, but the Banshees took control of the contest in the first quarter, leading 15-14 by the end of the period.
However, a 14-2 run by the Commanderettes to end the first half put WC up by 11 at halftime, a hole that the Banshees wouldn’t climb out of.
WC would lead by as much as 22 in the fourth quarter, but the Banshees remained resilient, cutting their deficit to 12 with two minutes to go.
“We were able to hold them off there at the end,” Smalley said, “and good teams have to be able to do that … Our team was excited about getting the W.”
However, Bethlehem was unable to chip any more into the Commanderette lead before the end of the game.
“The ball went in the basket for us,” Smalley said, “and for our kids, that’s a big confidence-builder.”
WC was led in scoring by senior Jennifer Keene, who chipped in 19 points. Two other Commanderettes—sophomores Lexi Thompson and Karagan Brizendine—scored in double digits, scoring 10 apiece.
And, despite only scoring seven points on the night, Smalley was pleased with junior Jadiesha Durham’s effort and how she has been fitting into the team’s lineup.
“She’s been playing really well for us, and right now, she might be our best outside shooter,” Smalley said. “She’s coming along for us.”
The win snapped the team’s six-game losing streak and gave them their first district win of the year.