Lady Bulldogs advance, defeat Austin-East in region opener

Published 2:55 pm Sunday, February 25, 2024

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Maintaining composure against an ultra-aggressive opponent can be challenging, but the Hampton Lady Bulldogs demonstrated just that on Friday night in the Region 1-2AA TSSAA playoff at Van Huss / White Gymnasium against Knoxville’s Austin-East.

The Lady Roadrunners (10-15) entered the game with a strategy of driving hard to the hoop, aiming to draw fouls and secure easy baskets. Initially caught off guard, the Lady Bulldogs emerged in the second half with a level of aggressiveness that matched Austin-East’s, ultimately frustrating them and clinching a 77-65 victory that sent the Roadrunners home for the season.

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“It was a very physical game,” remarked Lady Bulldogs head coach Dewayne Humphrey. “We talked at halftime about using ball fakes to make them leave their feet. They were aggressive, looking to block shots, and they did that early. But we talked about settling down and getting our nerves under control. This time of year, every team is good and will give you their best shot.”

The first quarter saw numerous lead changes, but Hampton took a 16-15 lead after one period and extended it to a slim 34-29 advantage at halftime, with sophomore guard Hannah Smith leading the way with 10 points.

Smith’s two treys in the second period helped establish offensive continuity for the Bulldogs and forced the Lady Roadrunners to defend outside the paint more than they preferred.

“In the second half, Hampton (22-9) began to exert their will and matched the physicality of Austin-East, holding the ‘Runners to nine third-quarter points to take a 57-38 lead into the fourth quarter.

Senior Macy Henry scored eight of her 12 points in the period, mostly with shots in the paint that came with contact. Her resilience inspired the Lady Bulldogs, spelling the end for Austin-East.

“It was a tough game for sure,” said junior post Faye Carrico, who contributed eight points and seven rebounds. “We let them get frustrated, and I think our pump fakes helped in that regard.”

In the fourth quarter, Hampton opened up a 20-point advantage at 61-41 with 6:38 remaining in regulation. Despite head coach Gwendolyn Jackson being ejected after a second technical foul for arguing foul calls, Austin-East rallied, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 65-51 at the 3:19 mark. However, solid free-throw shooting helped Hampton maintain their lead, as they made 12-of-15 attempts in the fourth quarter.

Smith finished with 20 points for Hampton, matching Austin-East’s Ja’onna Witt’s 20-point effort. Da’leyah Brown scored 18 points for Austin-East, with Tymirriana Brown adding 10.

For Hampton, Piper Helle scored 16 points, with Henry adding 12. Henry was honored before the game for reaching her 1,000th point and 500 rebounds in her prep career.

Region 1-2AA playoff

Van Huss / White Gymnasium

Hampton 77, Austin-East 65

Austin-East (65): Stevens 8, Johnson 5, Smith 2, Witt 20, D. Brown 18, T. Brown 10, Hughes 2.

Hampton (77): Helle 16, Henry 12, Hicks 5, Carrico 8, Berry 9, Estep 4, H. Smith 20, Lunsford 3.

Austin-East: 15 14 9 27 – 65

Hampton: 16 18 23 20 – 77

3-point goals: AE 4 (D. Brown 2, Witt 1, T. Brown 1), H 4 (H. Smith 2, Helle 1, Berry 1)