Carter dominates in Monday’s LRHS girls’ basketball game

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

As a freshman, Tianna-Jo Carter was a little nervous about becoming a member of the varsity girls’ basketball team.

“At the beginning of the season, I was really nervous. I knew everyone on the team, but didn’t really know them very well,” she said. “As the games went on, I got to know everyone. Now, we’re family.”

The nerves are certainly gone, and the Laker center is starting to confidently assert herself as a force to be reckoned with.

Carter turned in a dominant performance Monday night, scoring 20 points while hauling down 26 rebounds and blocking five shots to lead the Lakers (12-2) to a thrilling 46-42 victory over third-ranked Greely (11-3).

The 6-foot-1 rookie center was active at both ends of the court. She posted up strong against Greely’s big front line, and scored the team’s final seven points in the third quarter to put the Lakers up 31-29. Early in the fourth, she worked hard to gain inside position and scored off two offensive rebounds.

On a night that she was a main offensive threat, Carter’s shot blocking proved to be the difference as she forced the Rangers to alter their shots. Maybe the biggest play came with just under a minute left with the Lakers clinging to a 44-40 lead. Greely forward Jacyln Storey made a quick move to the left and appeared headed for a lay-up when out of nowhere Carter blocked the shot — this was no slight tip, it was rejected with authority.

“When I saw her going by, I said, ‘Oh no.’ I ran as fast as I could and tried to time hitting the ball out of her hand when she went up to shoot. Luckily, it worked,” Carter said.

Like Carter, LR players closed the game with a great deal of composure — first, running the clock down with some precision passing between guards Sydney Hancock, Abby Craffey and Kasey Huntress; then Craffey and Huntress (with 9.1 seconds left) making key front ends of 1-and-1 foul shot chances to seal the victory.

“Our composure was fantastic. We took care of the basketball. We played with confidence. We moved the ball and weren’t just looking for just one player to attack. A complete team effort tonight,” LR Coach Paul True said. “That was an unbelievable battle. Great effort, a well-played game by both teams. Just very, very sound fundamental basketball. It must have been a great game to watch. Defensively, it was 32 minutes of the way we want to play. For the most part, we pressured the ball all over the court without fouling, which has been one of our keys. Tonight, we were very disciplined.”

Coach True had high praise for his freshman center, as well.

“Tianna, she’s a special player, and a special kid. n my seven years here, that may have been the best single player performance I’ve seen,” Coach True said. “Simply amazing. I couldn’t be happier, and her teammates couldn’t be happier for her.”

Carter credited her steady improvement to her coaches and teammates.

“The other post players — Hannah (Cutting), Kelsey (Winslow) and Shannon (Van Loan) — in practice, they really help me out a lot. They tell me what I am doing wrong and doing right, and they support me. It gives me more confidence to take the ball to the basket,” she said.

The Lakers looked to attack the lane early with Carter scoring the club’s first 4 points. Cutting also was aggressive, scoring off a nifty baby hook shot and a foul line jumper as her Greely defender decided to sag in the lane.

Greely, meanwhile, came out shooting from the perimeter. Three straight 3-pointers — two by Megan Coale and the other by Caroline Hamilton — gave the Rangers an early 9-4 lead. LR guards would not give too many more open looks the rest of the night. In fact, the guards — Hancock, Craffey, Huntress and Rachel Wandishin — bodied up, full court never giving the Rangers any breathing room.

“I expected them to shoot them (3-pointers). We’ve been talking about this since the first time we were getting ready to play Greely. Coale, Hamilton and Munson — they’re the shooters and we’ve gone over that. We lost distance, and I give them credit for knocking down the open shots. It opened our eyes a little bit, and maybe our girls put a little more credence to what I was trying to communicate with them. We adjusted very well,” Coach True said.

Both teams played tough defense in the second as the clubs each scored just 4 points. Points didn’t come any easier in the third as the Lakers biggest lead would be 5 points early on as Craffey drained a 3-pointer. But, the Rangers tied the game at 24-24 and 29-29 as Coale knocked down a 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds left. LR regained the lead as Carter banked a shot off the backboard with a second left.

The fourth quarter had LR fans rocking the gym. LR seemed to open up a little daylight when Cutting and Carter each scored inside hoops, and Huntress netted a 3-pointer off a quick pass from Hancock for a 40-31 lead with 6:16 left. Following a timeout, the Rangers stormed back as Hamilton sank a 3-pointer to close within 40-36. Two foul shots by Kelsey Winslow and a baseline floater by Hancock (who Coach True felt played “phenomenal” in running the Laker offense) with 4:03 left gave LR a 44-36 lead.

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Stat Lines

Lakers 46: Tianna-Jo Carter 9-2-20, Abby Craffey 1-1-4, Hannah Cutting 3-1-7, Sydney Hancock 1-3-5, Kasey Huntress 1-1-4, Rachel Wandishin 1-0-2, Kelsey Winslow 1-2-4.

Greely 42: Caton Beaulieu 1-0-2, Chelsea Bridges 1-2-4, Caroline Hamiltonn 4-2-13, Haylee Munson, Mykaela Twitchell 1-1-3, Sara Warnock 2-3-7.

3 Pointers: Craffey, Huntress; Greely Coale 3, Hamilton 3.

FT: Lakers 10-19 (53%), Greely 10-15 (67%)

Turnovers: Lakers 13, Greely 9

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Greely clawed back as Hamilton scored on a driving shot and Sara Warnock swished two foul shots with 3:27 left to make it 44-40.

Entering a stall, the Lakers trimmed over 2 minutes off the clock. Craffey somehow managed to split two Greely defenders along the sideline to keep the LR possession alive.

Coach True liked how his club closed out the game, making big shots and keeping their cool.

“What was nice was Tianna had a couple of put backs, Hannah hits a shot and then Kasey drills the three. Sydney is distributing the ball. Even though one or two players hit key shots, it was a team effort. I told all the kids on the bench that this game was the most enthusiastic and vocal effort I’ve seen from them, supporting everyone on the floor. I was really happy with what took place here tonight,” he said. “Every free throw is critical and important. We toyed with the idea of fouling them and putting them at the line, just because of our size and not allowing them to get a three, but Kasey took that right out of my hands, which was nice.”

As the regular season nears its end (the Lakers will get another big test when they travel to Greely next Friday night, Feb. 11 in the season finale) and the playoffs looms, Coach True sees his club steadily improving in all phases of the game.

“Offensively, we are becoming more decisive, so we’re not waiting or holding the ball too long. I think the girls are less fearful of making a mistake, and having Kelsey back has really made us tougher inside with Tianna and Hannah. The nice thing about Kelsey and Hannah is that they can defend out along the perimeter, so it is a huge advantage,” he said. “When we lost to Cape, we just lost Allison (Clarke to an injury) and Abby gets hurt early in the first quarter, people were looking around wondering who was going to make a play. I think we’re over that, and people realize we need everyone to make plays. Tonight, all of the kids had some big moments. It was nice to see.”

Carter said the Cape loss was an eye opener for her teammates.

“When we lost to Cape, it really brought us down a lot. Facing Greely, we knew it was going to be a tough game, and we were really nervous. We were hoping it wouldn’t turn out like Cape. Tonight, when we won, I think this will totally turn us around. We’ll do a lot better now. We finally worked as a team,” she said.

Carter enjoyed her first taste of playoff-brand basketball.

“Everyone screaming and shouting, it really pumped us up and we were so excited. It was awesome,” she said. “I was just really excited and confident tonight. When I started making my shots, I thought it was just awesome. I was extremely tired (she played virtually the entire game). My legs felt like Jello.”

Her legs may have felt like Jello, but there was nothing soft about Tianna-Jo Carter’s game.


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