The Saint Mary’s girls’ basketball team traveled to Wake Christian Academy Thursday night and walked away with a satisfying 31-28 victory against its Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Association.
The outcome gave the Lady Saints (6-10, 3-7 TISAC) revenge after suffering a 38-29 loss to the Lady Bulldogs (1-18, 1-8) earlier in the season, which wound up being Wake Christian’s lone win on the year.
Following the contest, seniors from the boys and girls teams were walked to mid-court by loved ones and honored in front of a cheering crowd. However, Lindsey Jackson was the only member of the Lady Bulldogs at mid-court, providing an explanation to the programs struggles and a frustrating season.
“We are an extremely young team,” Wake Christian coach Danny Hensley said. “Lindsey is our only senior and has been our emotional leader all season. The girls have stuck together and have been playing much better the last few weeks, but there is only so much you can do with our lack of experience.”
The Bulldogs main priority heading into the matchup was to slow down Saint Mary’s junior forward Andy Smithey, who has averaged 13.1 points per game. Hensley had his squad playing a 1-3-1 zone, which allowed a defender to shadow Smithey.
“She has been an excellent player for the past couple years and to win we knew we had to slow her down,” Hensley said. “If you can slow her down then you slow the whole team down and really disrupt their rhythm.”
Hensley’s squad executed the game-plan to perfection in the first half, holding Smithey to six points as the Bulldogs took a 19-17 lead into halftime.
Unfortunately, the second half was a completely different story.
Smithey scored ten of her 22 points in the third quarter alone, helping the Saints build a 25-18 lead.
“We knew we had to get Andy more involved in the offense in the second half,” Saint Mary’s coach Dean Monroe said. “We were settling for too many outside shots in the first half and we just weren’t converting. In the second half we did a great job of getting penetration and working the ball inside to Andy and she took care of the rest.”
Wake Christian started off the fourth quarter strong, going on a 7-0 run to even the score with 3:23 left in the contest. The crowd was involved and the Saints desperately needed someone to step up.
Smithey, as she has done all season, answered the call. The junior scored six points down the stretch, the Saints only points of the quarter, giving her team the lead and eventually the victory.
“The difference in the second half was the tempo,” Smithey said. “We were playing much faster and passing the ball around quick, which allowed us to get open looks.”
Smithey was also very active on the glass, hitting the boards with a purpose as she pulled down 13 rebounds, many of which led to second chance opportunities for the Saints offense.
“Coach tells me to go after every shot,” Smithey said. “I do my best to get to every rebound and it is also a good way to draw fouls and get to the free throw line.”
The victory was a great way for the Saints to wrap up their season and they should be a force to be reckoned with in the conference next year with Smithey back as a senior.