- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Kristen Miller could barely speak following Patuxent’s girls basketball game against La Plata on Wednesday, but that was just fine because Miller and teammate Ruth Cooper let their actions speak for them.
Cooper and Miller hit three-pointers eight seconds apart to help jumpstart a 12-point fourth quarter run and the Panthers came from behind to defeat the visiting Warriors 38-23.
The Panthers (5-14, 2-8 SMAC) ended up scoring 21 points in the final period — four more points than they had in the previous three quarters combined — and overcame six ties and four lead changes to snap a two-game losing streak.
“When things looked really gloomy in the first three quarters when we were making some turnovers and missing some really easy shots, they came out in the fourth and just kept playing and fighting,” Patuxent head coach Stan Hampton said. “I keep telling them, ‘The pendulum will swing back their way. Focus on the positive, not on the negative and good things will happen’ and it showed. We turned up the defense and things started to fall and it went our way.”
The Warriors (5-15, 2-8) led by as many as four points — the largest lead by either team until Patuxent’s game-changing run in the fourth — but lost for the eighth time over the last nine games. Though La Plata had two injured players — Lilly Clark still managed to play and finished with a team-high nine points — and one out with illness, head coach Ricky Cue was not pleased.
“We didn’t play hard enough,” Cue said. “We had girls who didn’t do their job and play defense or box out or follow the shooters. [Patuxent] wanted it more, that was the difference in the game. We have girls that are capable of playing well and they just didn’t play well or execute our game plan. They didn’t play hard, that was it. We had too many unforced turnovers and too many kids didn’t do their job. They watched as the other team got three or four attempts at each possession. They were capable of competing, they just didn’t do their jobs.”
Hampton said he was impressed with the short-handed Warriors’ desire.
“They were really banged up, they had a lot of their key players out,” he said, “and so they really had a gutty effort out there in what they were able to do.”
Two players who did do their jobs were Miller and Cooper. With the Panthers ahead 22-21 with 4 minutes 42 seconds left in the game, Miller banked in a three-pointer. Seconds later, Miller inbounded out to Cooper, who dropped in a trey of her own.
“We just kept shooting and eventually we started hitting them,” said Cooper, who finished with eight points. “We were just kind of lethargic but in the fourth quarter we just kind of went off.”
Chernelle Massey, Destinee Jones and Sharde Jackson each added buckets to complete the run. Jones capped off the run with the defensive play of the game when she raced back and swatted a shot off the fingertips of La Plata’s Ashley Golson.
“We just kept it going and never gave up and just played as a team,” said Jackson, who finished with 10 points. “We weren’t taking our time but once we got in our rhythm we started hitting them.”
La Plata jumped out to an 8-4 first quarter lead thanks in part to Clark’s three-pointer, but the Panthers battled back and tied the game when Cooper intercepted an inbounds pass and made the layup as time expired in the period.
Patuxent led 12-10 at halftime and 17-16 after three quarters.
“Yeah, it was an opening,” Hampton said. “A lot of the games we’ve won this year is because we wait for that one good moment and things start coming our way and then it’s a landslide.”
The 38 points was the most Patuxent had scored in its last seven games since it dropped 42 in a loss to Westlake on Jan. 9, but Hampton said that’s OK as the team is playing stellar defense.
“Our defense has been our bread and butter,” he said. “We’ve been taking teams that have been averaging 40, 50 points a game and holding them to 30. It’s one thing I’m really trying to get the girls to take pride in. We might not win all these games, but by holding these teams [to lower point totals], it’s sending a message to the rest of the teams in the SMAC that they don’t want to see us in the playoffs because that type of defense really throws them off.”
The Panthers have now won two of their last five games after dropping seven straight and Miller said the victories will help the team’s morale down the homestretch.
“It just really motivates us for our last games,” Miller said in barely more than a whisper.