CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — When the core of your team has been playing together for three years, chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.
Northeast’s girls basketball team showed exactly what chemistry can do with its core players that includes Essence Brown, Sepe Moore, Jazzmyn Simpson and Danayla Odom. All four players scored at least six points while Simpson had 13 and Moore 10. It all added up to the Lady Eagles’ 53-41 varsity basketball victory Thursday against University Heights Academy from Hopkinsville, Ky.
“Those girls have been together for awhile, and you can see how well they play together,” Northeast coach Tracie Mason-Blair said. “They have experience and they’ve been our team leaders. Now if we can finish games. We played hard for about 24 minutes of this game and we need to play a full 32 minutes.”
Northeast (1-2) jumped out early on the Lady Blazers and held a double-digit lead for much of the game. But UHA stayed within striking distance and was able to narrow the lead to 45-38 with 4:30 left. It was Jordan Hornbuckle’s free throws that chipped into Northeast’s lead. Hornbuckle spent the majoirty of the final quarter at the foul line, reaching the stripe five times. She converted seven shots at the line.
But Northeast responded by maintaining the same focus that built its lead in the first place. Point guard Sepe Moore found her teammates in the post for several easy baskets against University Heights’ zone. UHA transitioned from a half-court trap to a 1-3-1 zone and Moore was able to fire bullet passes to LaKeisha Phillips and Odom. Phillips would finish with four points while Odom finished with six.
Odom and Moore hit back-to-back baskets within 25 seconds of each other late in the game to give the Lady Eagles a 51-39 lead.
“Our goal was to take exactly what UHA was going to give us,” Mason-Blair said. “We teach our guards to read defenses, and you make the adjustments on the court. UHA played some zone and we had to find the open man. If they played man, we wanted to drive into the lane and collapse the defense.”
Northeast’s defense was organized chaos as it forced UHA into countless fouls and 16 turnovers. At times the Lady Blazers were out of control. Hornbuckle led UHA with 12 points while Anshanique Leavell added 11 in the loss.
Moore knocked down a 3-pointer in the first quarter and Simpson had consecutive three-point play opportunities. She converted one of those chances as Northeast held a 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
UHA cut the lead to three after a 3-pointer from Alex Juckett with 3:58 left, but Northeast would finish the half on a 13-4 run, capped off by two straight 3s from Payton Hall to give the Lady Eagles a 31-19 lead at the break.
Both teams spent the third quarter trading baskets as Northeast kept the lead around 10 to 12 points for the quarter.
“I give our girls credit because they came up with a stop or a steal and a basket throughout the game,” Mason-Blair said. “We were active defensively and we pushed the ball when we could. That’s what I’d like for our team to do with every defensive rebound. We want to get out and run and push the pace. Our halfcourt sets need work, but we were able to pick our spots.”
Both teams played to a 22-22 standstill in the second half but it was Northeast’s first-half dominance that proved the difference.
“If we keep making progress like this I think we have a chance to be much better than last year,” Mason-Blair said.
Reach Prep writer George Robinson at 931-245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.