WENDELL — The Corinth Holders boys and girls basketball teams each dipped their toes into non-conference play for the final time this regular season as they played host to Wilson Hunt Friday night.
And although both teams came up on the losing end, there were plenty of positives to be had that hint at future success in the remaining nine Two Rivers 3A Conference games the Pirates have on their schedule.
The girls team saw a 23-point improvement from the first time the two teams faced off in losing 64-48 thanks to inspired efforts from Maddy Gladwell and Khadijah Neal.
In the nightcap, eight possessions were the difference as Wilson Hunt capitalized on quick starts in the first and third quarters to earn the season sweep over the Pirates with a 60-44 victory.
A moral victory
Most coaches scoff at the idea of a moral victory but the circumstances surrounding the 16-point defeat at the hands of Wilson Hunt left Corinth Holders girls basketball coach Brandy Smith a little bit more accepting of the idea.
Four weeks after suffering a 39-point drubbing on the Warriors’ home court, a more composed Pirate squad put up a stronger fight the second time around.
Despite facing a relentless trapping defense, Corinth Holders showed improvement from the initial meeting in moving the ball around and getting into the flow of its offense.
“We handled pressure a little bit better against their three-quarters court press, we were more composed,” Corinth Holders coach Brandy Smith said. “There were moments when we fell back into our old habits but the times we did it correctly, we rotated the basketball, shifted their zone and got good things out of it.”
Khadijah Neal led the Pirates with 16 points and sophomore point guard Maddy Gladwell had a solid performance (13 points) as well.
Corinth Holders, after leading for much of the opening quarter, trailed by two entering the second period before 10 turnovers led to easy baskets for Hunt and helped the Warriors extend the lead to 10 points by halftime at 31-21.
Although the Pirates (5-6) cut down on turnovers in the second half, they simply did not have an answer for the Warriors’ inside game, which was bolstered by the presence of senior 6-foot-3 center Kiana Ballard.
Ballard went 8-for-11 from the field for 14 points, posted seven rebounds and had four blocked shots. Power forward Alexus Williams also helped to add to the Warriors’ advantage inside with 14 points and five rebounds.
“They just had some extra things inside, some post presence, that we just couldn’t match up to,” added Smith.
Cyarra Pierson and Holly Price also turned in fine showings for the Pirates with eight points apiece.
Lapses too much to overcome
Looking back on the boys’ 60-44 defeat, two stretches in the game proved devastating to Corinth Holders and its chances at winning.
Turnovers on each of the Pirates’ first four possessions to start the game and to start the second half led to easy points for Hunt and the Warriors’ came away with a cumulative 17-0 run during the combined three minutes of action.
“To start the game and to start the second half, we had four possessions where we didn’t even get a shot,” Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis said. “Those two runs at the beginning of the first quarter and the beginning of the third quarter, we didn’t do the little things.”
The Pirates (1-12) all but erased the early 9-0 deficit to start the game and crawled to within a point of the visitors when Hampton Smith found Ki-yon Walden for a transition bucket early in the second quarter.
However, an athletic and talented Warriors side led by Quan Kent (18 points, seven steals) and Jaylen Gilliam (13 points) stretched the lead to double digits by halftime before the second huge run in the third quarter all but sealed the outcome.
Justin Jefferson and Ra’Shod Shipman also reached double figures for Hunt with 10 points each.
When Corinth Holders was able to get the ball into its half court offense, it more often than not succeeded and kept pace with the Warriors for the majority of the contest.
The Pirates’ bench outscored Hunt’s reserves 40-2 as eight different players scored.
“When we took care of the ball and we boxed out, we did well,” said Davis. “We’ve just got value to ball more.”
Walden led all Pirate scorers with 12 points while Tori Carmichael and Alan Forrest both added eight points to the cause.