Strong defense paces Pantherettes to 37-22 win at Chisum
On Friday, the North Lamar Pantherettes put their undefeated record on the line at Mustang Gymnasium against the Chisum Lady Mustangs. In a clash between Lamar County teams, North Lamar protected its undefeated record by starting fast and defending well in a 37-22 win over the Lady Mustangs.
Pantherettes push the pace while dictating it with defense
For North Lamar, the key to victory was its defense. In the early going, North Lamar forced Chisum into numerous turnovers, which turned into plenty of fast-break opportunities for the Pantherettes. The Pantherettes’ energy and focus on defense proved to be a catalyst in Friday night’s matchup.
“The energy we came out with, in our man-to-man defense, was unmatched today,” Pantherettes head basketball coach Taqoya Monds said. “They were really excited about playing Chisum and some of their friends who are on the team. Everyone came out with a lot of energy, everyone was talking, and the ball was moving. We got a lot of deflections and steals early, and that’s what really carried us through the game, even when we started making mistakes.”
Monds knows where her team excels as do the players. With that, getting in the passing lanes and doing so effectively takes precedence over filling up the stat sheet.
“I think our biggest strength right now is our defense. We have some really fast girls and we’ve been working on our conditioning a lot along with our technique,” North Lamar sophomore Maddie Walters said. “We’ve worked on having our hands out, moving our feet, and playing as big as we can so we can get those steals or get down the court fast on the break.”
Walters’ five early first-quarter points sparked North Lamar to a large lead. After the sophomore guard stole a Chisum pass and scored on the other end, North Lamar held an 8-1 lead. Buckets from junior post Hutton Pointer with 1:02 left and a score in transition by sophomore guard Cydnie Malone with 23 ticks remaining in the opening quarter pushed North Lamar’s lead to 12-1 at the end of the quarter.
Lady Mustangs try to make a push
North Lamar continued to seize the momentum in the second quarter until Chisum freshman Emma Garner’s layup midway through the second quarter seemed to spark the home team Lady Mustangs. Chisum trailed 21-6 at the half and cut the deficit to 21-10 early in the third quarter, but tired legs seemed to open the door for the Pantherettes to regain control of the game.
“Defensively, I think we played a good all-around game. We just struggled to get our easy shots to fall — especially at the beginning of the game,” Lady Mustangs head basketball coach Will Smith said. “When we were able to get on runs, those shots fell, but we would lose a little momentum in having to fight our way back in the game. I think we just kind of ran out of gas there towards the end.”
Big changes with bigger results
Despite active defense from Chisum as well, North Lamar kept coming. Walters drained a 3-pointer with 5:04 left in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 33-13. After that, she drove to the basket and cashed in on a layup with 1:34 remaining in the quarter to extend the advantage to 35-14. North Lamar only scored two points in the fourth quarter but, thanks to more quality defense, the visitors were able to keep Chisum at bay the rest of the way.
“Last year, we didn’t really talk as much. But this year, we’ve been working on our communication, even when we scrimmage against the boys,” Walters said. “We’ve been working on defense because it is our strong suit. We have our strengths on offense, too, but our real strong suit is defense. We look to push the ball and get those opportunities by getting stops on defense.”
Walters guided North Lamar with 11 points while junior guard Mylee Nottingham scored 8 points. Malone ended the game with 7 points and Pointer added 4 points. Dani Blount tallied 3 points while both Sloane Hill and Macy Richardson poured in 2 points apiece.
Sophomore guard Peyton Holland led the way with 7 points while Garner had 5 points. Senior post Chloe Prestridge and Ava Lamb each finished with 3 points, while junior post Harmony Marsh scored 2 points and recorded several blocks. Hannah Ford and Brylea Marshall each registered 1 point.
Areas of improvement for both teams
Despite the dominant outing, Monds is looking for her girls to continue improving, especially late in games. With that, she knows the importance of the things she and her players are working towards later in the season.
“I’ve been talking to them a lot about staying focused and finishing games strong,” Monds said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball late in the game and understand how to stay out of foul trouble. Down the road, that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to matter. When we are winning in a game, I’m not coaching them on that. Instead, I’m coaching them on every correct way to finish a game strongly.”
On the other hand, the Lady Mustangs know the fundamental tweaks they need to improve in order to get on track once again. Improving a 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) clip from the free-throw line and capitalizing under the basket are two points of emphasis for Smith and his team moving forward.
“Missed free throws are the biggest glaring point there,” Smith said. “We have to get better in that area as well as making our block shots. I’ve been preaching that all year long. We have to make our block shots. We can’t miss point-blank shots under the goal, and that hurt us because we had them open, but they just didn’t fall.”
The Pantherettes aim for another win at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cooper. Previously, the Pantherettes fell to Edgewood over the weekend — North Lamar’s first loss of the season. However, the Pantherettes (7-1) bounced back with a 6-point home win over Sherman.
Meanwhile, the Lady Mustangs rebounded from the loss with a 63-27 win at Rivercrest and will also have their next game against the Cooper Dogettes. Chisum will host Cooper at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, at Mustang Gymnasium. For more sports coverage, click here.