ALBANY – When asked what it would take for her team to have a successful season, Albany’s Haley Meyers didn’t hesitate with her response.
“Defense,” she said. “Because our defense creates our offense, and when we don’t do good on defense, then we don’t really have our offense. We need to do good on defense to have our offense.”
That’s exactly what the Lady Hornets used during a big first-quarter run to help key a 72-43 win over Port Allen as part of the Denham Springs High Tournament at the Albany gym on Friday.
Port Allen jumped out to a 6-0 lead as the Lady Hornets struggled from the field early. A pair of free throws by Lyric Nelson put Port Allen ahead 8-4 with 4:28 to play in the first quarter, but those were the Lady Pelicans’ final points of the quarter.
From there, Albany (6-2) worked the boards and its transition game, keying a 24-0 run to end the quarter. Emma Fuller had the final two baskets during the surge with a steal and layup making the score 28-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“We did the exact same thing (Thursday) night (in a 74-48 win over Zachary,” Albany coach Stacy Darouse said. “We went on a 27-0 run (Thursda) night as well. I think it’s a picture of our depth in that my first crew, whoever that may be, because we’re changing the lineup a good bit, comes in for the first three or four minutes and when they’re breathing hard, we come back with three or four new kids for two or three minutes and we’ve got fresh people on the floor when the other team may have the same five or six. I think at the end of the quarter when the other team’s breathing hard is when we’re able to catch a couple of quick baskets in the press. Any time we can get easy ones and not have to play offense, we get in our groove a little bit.”
Seven players scored in the opening quarter for Albany with Aubrey Hoyt getting 10 of her 16 points during the span.
Nelson’s putback to open the second quarter stopped Albany’s scoring run, but the Lady Hornets didn’t let up in pushing the lead to 48-21 Laila McAlister’s basket to end the first half.
“Defense and pace – our ability to wear people down,” Darouse said of the Lady Hornets’ keys for success this season. “We’ve got to play fast. Yeah, that’s it – and throw it in the hole every now and then. We shot really well (against Zachary). We didn’t shoot as well (against Port Allen). Fortunately, we didn’t have to shoot as well tonight. We’ve just got to stay in the gym and keep working on it. I tell them all the time, ‘you can’t score if you don’t shoot, and of you miss it, get it and shoot it again.’”
Nelson had seven of her 21 points in the second quarter, while Port Allen point guard Braylah Pierson had 13 points in the game. Nelson went 9-for-10 from the line.
“We focused on keeping out of their point guard’s hands and limiting her getting to the basket,” Darouse said. “The officials that we had (Friday) kind of cleaned us up really quick, and we weren’t allowed to do some things inside. No. 44 (Nelson) did a great job of getting us deep in the paint and got us in position to fail, and we put her on the line too much (Friday). That’s definitely something we’ve got to work on because she’s not the only big we’re going to see this year.”
Brilee Ford’s free throw extended the advantage to 60-24 with 1:40 to play in the third quarter after Darouse went to her bench, and Port Allen cut the lead to 60-29 going into the fourth quarter.
Fuller’s basket put Albany up 62-33 when Darouse put her starters back in the game with 6:16 to play.
“I’m super comfortable with that,” Darouse said of subbing out five players at a time with a roster that features, four seniors, no juniors and 11 sophomores and freshmen. “We have 15 girls on the team, and we practice everybody together. Everybody works on the same thing. We don’t play first five against second five. Everybody plays with somebody different every day, so it doesn’t matter what combination I have on the floor, they’re comfortable playing together. In doing that, you create that depth, and the style that we play, we have to have it. We’ve got some babies on the floor, but they don’t know they’re babies.”
“There’s times that we have two freshmen and three sophomores on the floor,” Darouse continued. “There’s times we have four seniors and a freshman. It doesn’t matter to us, and the good thing is it doesn’t matter to them.”
Myers scored eight of her 19 points during a run that pushed the lead to 72-40 before Darouse subbed out all five players on the court.
Cassie Baygents added 12 points for Albany, while Fuller and Meisha Williams each scored eight.
“Once we get going, it’s like we’re family,” Myers said. “We all get together and once we somebody else doing something, then we all just come together, and when we come together as one team, we work way better than one just doing their own thing and one doing something else.”