St. Mary’s School coach Dean Monroe charged his girls’ basketball players to have confidence. He wanted them to not hang their heads against the visiting Wake Christian Academy down the stretch.
Andy Smithey took heed, knocking down a smooth elbow jumper under the two-minute mark of the Saints’ 49-46 victory over Wake Christian on Tuesday night.
In Monroe’s four seasons with St. Mary’s, he’s found plenty of reasons to rely on Smithey. As the 6-foot senior forward develops and grows, so does the Saints program.
“She’s really developed into a nice player,” Monroe said of Smithey. “I’ve realized over the last few years she’s hard to stop in transition, and that’s unusual for a post player. Often times, she gets fouled going to the basket, so we give her the freedom to catch it and go to the basket. A lot of stuff we run, we run through her.
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“We’re successful when she’s involved.”
In the TISAC victory over the Bulldogs earlier this week, Smithey led the game with 25 points, going 7-of-10 from the free throw line. She converted two and-1 opportunities and grabbed game-best 14 rebounds to complete the double-double.
She was a force when fed the ball down low and owned the glass. Her lone steal came in the first quarter after Monroe requested one from his box.
Smithey led the game with seven points in the fourth quarter, the period that the Bulldogs erased a large deficit to come within three.
When Wake Christian’s Anna Fish chucked up the final three-point attempt at the buzzer, the Saints held their breath.
“We were hoping it didn’t go in, but they did a nice job of breaking through,” said Smithey, who watched the last shot spring off the iron from near half court. “We had to definitely trust each other to be able to perform.”
Smithey is one of only two seniors on the team this year and started with Monroe when he came on board.
Monroe said this year features the best start since he’s been the head coach. Even his star forward admitted the Saints have come a long way since her freshman season.
“In my four years, we’ve been making progress,” Smithey said. “We started not as great, so it’s awesome to be working our way in the conference.”
After picking up the Wake Christian victory, one that kept the Saints undefeated in the TISAC, Smithey also inched closer to 1,000 career points.
The Saints captain was at 988 after taking down the Bulldogs and passed the mark in a game against Durham Academy on Wednesday.
She capitalized in scoring off transition baskets, as “we were just trying to push the pace and wear them out. And then, just facing the basket, instead of playing with my back to it.”
Smithey said as she prepares to close her senior year, she hopes she’s been able to establish to value of teamwork and enthusiasm.
“Offensively, she was inconsistent like she should be as a freshman and now, she’s really, really scoring a lot of points for us,” Monroe said. “It’s been nice watching her grow, working with her and watching her develop.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan