Facing a suddenly-reinvigorated opponent, the Glynn Academy girls hit the thermonuclear button midway through the third quarter and cooked Mt. Zion-Jonesboro en route to a 52-28 victory in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday at The Glass Palace.
The Bulldogs (17-11) went into halftime trailing by 31-13, but they came out of the locker room looking like a different team as they embarked on a 9-2 run to draw to within 11 points.
Mt. Zion’s full-court pressure forced a handful of turnovers to start the second half, leading to some easy baskets as the Bulldogs worked themselves back into the game.
But the Mt. Zion basket that cut the deficit to 33-22 with more than four minutes to play in the third quarter was its last. The Bulldogs only scored 1 more point — a free throw with just 2:56 to play — until the Terrors emptied their bench with 1:39 remaining, up by 27 points.
From around the four-minute mark in the third until there was just three minutes left on the clock, No. 3 Glynn Academy (23-4) outscored Mt. Zion 17-0, beginning with two quick baskets from La’Trinity Best, who head coach Sharnesha Smith felt was the key to the run.
“We said it in the locker room, they’re going to come out in their full-court press, so we’ve got to be ready,” Coach Smith said. “For some reason, us translating that in the locker room to come out and do it, it was hit and miss tonight.
“But when we were able to regroup, call a timeout and put people in the right spots, we were able to get exactly what we wanted out of it.”
Although Best finished with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, her impact on the court for the Terrors transcends the box score.
As a big with the ability to put the ball on the court, Best works as an outlet in the middle of the floor against aggressive, trapping teams. She can also get out in transition, which she demonstrated in the third to stop Mt. Zion’s push before getting another bucket on the ensuing possession.
Talia Hamilton also got a transition layup a few seconds later as Glynn rattled off six straight points in just under a minute of game time. Hamilton finished with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting along with four steals defensively.
But as she is most nights, Zoesha Smith was the best player on the court for either team, scoring a game-high 24 points while grabbing nine rebounds, dishing a pair of assists, and blocking two shots.
The University of Georgia commit is even more frightening for opponents than a year ago due to her continued evolution from a post player and slasher to a legitimate face-up shooting threat.
Smith splashed in a 3-pointer from the wing for the first points of the contest as a sign of what was to come: a bevy of pull-up jumpers from various areas in the midrange that will force teams to play up on her out to the perimeter.
While the Terrors’ offensive feats were impressive, they ultimately paled in comparison to a defensive performance that saw normally stingy Glynn Academy hold Mt. Zion to fewer than 10 points in each quarter.
Coach Smith has talked about her desire to see her team come out and set a tone to open games, and they did just that in the first round, holding the Bulldogs to just five points in the opening period while building a 13-point advantage.
“We talked about it all week long,” Coach Smith said. “We had to work out some things as a coaching staff and as a program. Because we do have our starters playing a lot of minutes, sometimes in certain games, we’d rather get back defensively and play solid. Tonight we came out in our full-court press and I think we got it going a little bit.
“Our motto in our full-court press is, you may not get every steal, but if you speed a team up, and make them take a quick shot, it worked. Tonight, we didn’t turn them over all the time, but we made them make some quick shots and we were able to slow them down a little here and there.”
Glynn Academy will be back in action at The Glass Palace next week when it hosts a Sweet 16 against the winner of today’s game between Sequoyah and defending state champion Lanier.
Glynn boys 41
A season-long struggle to score points came to a head for the Red Terrors at the worst possible time.
The Glynn Academy boys played their hearts out in the program’s first home playoff game since 2010, but the shots just wouldn’t fall in a 55-41 loss to Stephenson on Friday at The Glass Palace.
A tremendous defensive effort by the Terrors allowed them to hang around in the game despite its offensive hardships as they held the Jaguars to just seven points in the first quarter, and 15 points through 15 minutes of game time.
But instead of building a lead off the strength of its defensive performance, Glynn Academy was just able to keep the score close — neither team held a lead of more than three points until the final minute of the second quarter.
With the score tied 15-15 with under a minute until halftime, Stephenson rattled off six straight points to stake itself to the largest lead of the game to that point before opening the third with a flurry to take a stranglehold on the contest.
The Jaguars knocked down 3-pointers on three straight possessions to blow open a 15-point advantage with 6:20 in the third quarter. Terrors junior Max Hrdlicka responded with a personal 10-0 run, but the Glynn Academy just couldn’t score enough to get itself back in the game as missed shots plagued them all night.
Hrdlicka finished with a game-high 24 points, but the Terrors’ next leading scorer was Tyson Rooks with eight points. D’Marion Hayes notched five points for Glynn and Quay Dickens chipped in four in the final game of the season for the boys.