Starting guard and co-team captain Tyaira Priest is still a show stopper on the hardwood for the Chopticon girls basketball team.
And Tuesday night against visiting Thomas Stone was no different, except with this win, she had a certain glow.
Priest, now a junior, had birthday balloons behind her chair as she celebrated her 16th birthday with her team, including new head coach Joe Cook.
And Priest and the Braves were both celebrating by game’s end in the form of a 59-39 nonconference victory over the Cougars.
Priest, who finished with nine points, said she was happy to get a win on her birthday.
“I think we played them tough,” Priest said. “I’m getting used to his coaching [philosophy], he’s a good coach. We’re looking forward to playing Leonardtown [at 5 p.m. today].”
Chopticon (2-0 overall) came out quick and led 20-5 by the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to 37-18 by halftime.
It took a total team effort for the Braves as Cook cleared the entire bench to give his second string some time on the floor.
“We finished well,” Cook said. “Thomas Stone played us hard coming out in the second half. We only scored six points in that third quarter, but we didn’t give up. We came back and fought hard. We did look tired. We’ve got to get in shape. That’s what I’m constantly preaching to our ladies. We need to work hard in practice so we can bring that out here, so there’s still some work to do.”
Chopticon junior guard Shyanne Gross was the game-high scorer with 17 points, which included four three-pointers. Gross said she was ready for the game.
“I was ready for the season to start,” Gross said. “I’ve been waiting and practicing and shooting and I see it’s been paying off. I’ve been getting more minutes than I thought I would. I was a little nervous about their pressure, but it’s varsity level now and I’ve got to step it up. Things are going to be different.”
Kayeoni Jenkins was the top scorer for the Cougars with 11 points, while Jade Sink finished with 10. Stone first-year head coach Jermel Escalera said he wasn’t happy with his team’s overall play.
“They didn’t play the game that they know to play,” Escalera said. “We were lazy on defense and we didn’t follow through on the things that we know to follow through on and that’s what hurt us and the other team got the better of us.”
Escalera reflected on his team’s performance at the free-throw line as they went 11 for 23 (48 percent). The Braves were just 3 for 8 (38 percent).
“That was them rushing and not following through,” Escalera said.
Turnovers started to cost both teams in the third quarter, but Chopticon junior guard Kala Herbert still lit up the court with steal after steal and put the home crowd on its feet.
Herbert finished with 12 points and seven steals, while starting center Erica Boyden tied Priest with nine points.
Braves junior center Dianne Carty finished with seven points and got some minutes when Cook cleared the bench late in the fourth quarter.
Carty sunk a three-point shot immediately after going in. She said that she felt like her team hustled in the first quarter to get the 20-5 jumpstart, but slowed down as the game continued.
“Come third quarter we started struggling and the starters weren’t doing so well,” Carty said, “but the last quarter it seemed like we were on fire and people we getting open more. It feels great [when Cook clears the bench] because it means we get to show our skills to the coach and get to prove that we deserve playing time. I’m ready to play Leonardtown. I think it will be a good game.”
Stone (2-1) will host Westlake at 7 tonight as part of a boys, girls varsity doubleheader.