By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain led most of the way en route to a 52-41 non-conference women’s basketball victory over Swain on Dec. 17 at the SM gym.
Natalie Parris scored 12 points for the Lady Mustangs (5-1), and Aubrie Miller had 10.
Mazie Helpman led the Lady Devils with 19 points, and Savannah Smith had 14.
“We came out after halftime and acted like we wanted to play,” Coach Ollin Dunford said. “It wasn’t the strategic part of the game, but it was the athleticism Swain had that showed our weakness a little more than anything. We stole the ball over and over in the first half, but the problem was what we did with it after we got it. We just need to get a little stronger and a little more confident. As long as we keep trying, we find a way to win.”
“I think in the beginning we had some nerves,” Lucy McRae said. “We were fumbling the ball a lot trying to get it out of our hands. We weren’t really being strong with the ball. In the second half we knew that it was our job to pick it up. It shouldn’t have been close, so we had to be strong with the ball and settle in and run our offense. We just got our momentum going.”
As for the play down the stretch, she said, “It got pretty wild out there at the end with fouls and excitement and some tempers, but we settled it down and did a good job of maintaining our level. We made some free throws, and the post players did well rebounding.”
Swain’s only lead was 6-4 on Helpman’s basket with 4:44 to play in the opening period.
SM never trailed after Hannah Huddleston’s layup made it 8-6 with 2:57 on the clock.
The Lady Mustangs led 12-10 at the quarter break after two foul shots by Parris with 55.7 seconds to go.
They took the lead for good at 17-14 on Miller’s three-pointer with 4:09 to play in the half.
The margin was 23-16 at halftime following an inside basket by Julianna Welch with 24 seconds remaining.
McRae scored six in a 10-1 run as the lead reached 33-21 with 2:06 left in the third period.
Parris’ driving shot made it 36-23 with 14 seconds to go, and SM led 36-25 going into the fourth quarter.
The game’s biggest margin was 46-32 on Parris’ basket with 3:10 to play.
Parris hit five field goals and two of two free throws. Miller made four field goals, including two three-pointers.
McRae finished with nine points, Melanie Hoyle added six, Welch, Huddleston and Allison Macke all scored four, Macy Wike had two and Kevonna Tushka hit a foul shot.
The Lady Mustang JVs are 4-1 after a 46-30 win. Alisha Hall and Riya Patel both scored eight points. Aiden Nicholson had nine rebounds and four assists. Xalia Spencer had four steals.
SM led at quarter breaks by scores of 15-6, 31-22 and 42-20.
“I thought we played great,” Coach Jason Melvin said. “We got started quicker this game than we have in our previous games, which is something we’ve been wanting to improve on. Both offensively and defensively, I thought we played smart and strong. We are doing a great job of reacting quickly to other team’s game plans. The girls are able to adjust and are communicating very well. Our scoring has been pretty evenly spread out which makes us a tough team to guard. Everyone is contributing in various ways. It’s always a fun game to be a part of when the entire team gets involved whether they’re on the floor or the bench, and this group is really coming together and starting to play at a high level.”