Zoesha Smith had already proven herself a star at No. 4 Glynn Academy, but if the version of the University of Georgia commit on display Tuesday against No. 9 Bradwell Institute was a peek at her final form, she might be more terrifying than ever imagined.
Although it was an ho-hum night for the senior on the stat sheet as she finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and a pair of steals, Zoesha Smith showed off her developing offensive versatility in leading the Terrors to a 53-39 Region 2-6A victory at The Glass Palace.
An athletic 6-foot-1, Smith has been at her best throughout her career when she can sprint the floor in transition or slash to the hoop in the halfcourt, so the most effective form of defense against her and Glynn Academy has generally been to clog the paint and make her finish over traffic.
Bradwell (12-5, 1-2) attempted a similar strategy early with two players pinching down on Zoesha Smith whenever she was in the lane, and it was relatively effective in holding Glynn (14-4, 4-0) to 12 first-quarter points and its standout to just four as it took an one-point lead into the second on the back of an 11-2 run.
But in the second, the Terrors roared ahead as Smith poured in 11 of the team’s 18 points courtesy a 3-pointer and a couple midrange jumpers, burning the Tigers from sagging off her outside of the paint.
“At practice, we’ve been doing a great job of having her keep working on her outside game,” said Glynn Academy head coach Sharnesha Smith. “I thought she definitely looked for those shots. Zoe is the type of player that can shoot the ball pretty good if she allows herself to take those shots. She holds herself back from that.
“If we can get her to take a little bit more of those shots, she’ll be all right. But I thought she did shoot the ball very well for us from the outside.”
Though Zoesha Smith once again stole the show, it was far from a solo effort.
Talia Hamilton tallied 14 points, her fast-break layup putting the Red Terrors back in front after trailing by four early in the second, and Glynn closed out the first half on a 16-2 run, to lead by 10 going into halftime.
Ultimately, eight different players scored for Glynn Academy on the night with Bradwell focused on taking the ball out of the hands of Zoesha Smith and Hamilton.
At one point in the second half, the Tigers shifted into a triangle-and-two look with players face guarding the Red Terrors’ two leading scorers and everyone else playing zone in the paint.
It slowed Glynn down momentarily before a tactical decision by the coaching staff gave the Terrors the edge once more.
“Our first decision that was made, we had to put somebody in there that would shoot the ball,” Sharnesha Smith said. “And Akirria Mountain does that. There’s no thinking. She’s going to let it fly.
“I thought she came in and gave us great minutes as far as putting pressure on the defense. Once she came in and shot the open look, she missed it, but it made them switch their defense. They went back to that zone and we were able to continue on.”
Defensively, the Glynn Academy locked in after the first quarter and held Bradwell to 10 or fewer points over each of the remaining three periods.
While Hamilton’s scoring prowess has been crucial for the Terrors, she also played a vital role for defensively in face guarding leading scorer Jada Brooks all over the court.
Brooks entered the game averaging 17.9 points per contest, but she was forced to work hard for all 16 points against Glynn.
“I thought Talia did a good job,” Sharnesha Smith said. “Normally, LaNeia is our defensive face-guarder, get into you person, but Talia has played a very vital role for us defensively, and I thought she did an OK job at that.
“They used their bigs, and I think our bigs have got to get better defensively when those things happen, stepping up to help out, which we’ll get better at.”
Glynn led by as many as 17 points en route to snapping Bradwell Institute’s four-game win streak, and with the victory, the Terrors guarantee themselves at least a regular-season split against each team in the region.
Just six games remain in Glynn Academy’s regular season, four against region opponents beginning with a home contest against Effingham County on Jan. 17.
Glynn boys 48
Despite a furious second-half rally by Bradwell Institute, the Glynn Academy boys held on to a playoff spot and a 48-45 victory Tuesday at The Glass Palace.
The Terrors locked down defensively in the first half as they raced out to a 24-12 advantage at halftime, but the Tigers came roaring back in the third.
Bradwell Institute (2-15, 0-3) outscored Glynn Academy (5-12, 1-3) 21-10 in eight minutes after halftime to turn a 12-point deficit into a one-point lead before Max Hrdlicka knocked down a pair of free throws to stake the Terrors back on top heading into the final period.
A pair of baskets by Kamarion Melvin gave the Tigers a three-point advantage early in the fourth before the Terrors went on a 10-2 run capped by Hrdlicka’s bucket and kept them at bay the remainder of the contest.
With the win, Glynn Academy climbs into the No. 4 spot in the Region 2-6A standings as Bradwell falls to fifth and out of the playoff picture.
The Red Terror boys are scheduled to travel to New Hampstead on Friday and Liberty County on Saturday before returning home for another region game against Effingham County on Jan. 17.