It seemed as if the Corinth Holders girl’s basketball team had lost its grip on the game when the team surrendered a 13-1 run to West Carteret early in the second quarter Monday evening.
Point guard Tajah Clark recollected what Pirates head coach Brandy Smith said to her team as the game seemed to slip away early.
“She said, ‘Either you want to end it now or you want to keep going. You can keep wearing this jersey or you can hang it up tonight.’ ”
Clark, alongside her teammates, refused to let their postseason journey take an early exit. No. 5 Corinth Holders (19-6) rallied to eat away at West Carteret’s lead, then overpowered the Patriots with impenetrable defense and offensive strikes to walk off their home court with a 49-37 victory.
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The two teams were battling in the second round of the NCHSAA 3A state tournament.
Clark, a senior captain, helped her team in all aspects. The guard wreaked havoc on the defensive end of the floor, as she forced West Carteret’s backcourt to make numerous miscues that led to turnovers and easy transition baskets.
Clark also led her team in scoring with 18 points, followed by fellow senior guard Khadijah Neal, who put up 14. The senior duo earned the majority of its baskets inside and was unstoppable off the drive in the second half.
“If you attack, they’re going to come out. They’ll either foul or we’ll be able to get open opportunities,” Smith said. “Even though they were playing a zone, we had to find ways to get the ball to the basket and quit just settling for the jump shot.”
After trailing 25-13 midway through the second quarter, Clark and Neal gained an unstoppable edge once finding their groove in the paint, and led their team to grab a 34-33 lead in a nine-minute span. West Carteret never found a way to answer and resorted to fouling the two strikers.
“Foul trouble hurt us,” West Carteret head coach Lindsey Mazzetti said. “Some of our better defenders had to come out and sit a lot longer than they are used to sitting. We had two of our starters foul out.”
The Patriots’ foul troubles hurt on the floor, causing the team to sharply lack offensive production in the second half.
Corinth Holders’ rigid zone was dense and shifted smoothly, as the team was able to contest shots and fend off attacks. The Pirates only allowed 10 total second-half points.
“We made some adjustments, defensively, from where we were in the first half,” Smith said. “It caused some turnovers for them and it caused some easy transition opportunities for us.”
West Carteret’s Colleen Taylor led the Patriots in scoring on the night with 11. Taylor had the hot hand from beyond the arc in the first half, shooting a perfect thee-for-three from downtown.
With the win, Corinth Holders advanced to the third round to face No. 4 Chapel Hill (14-9) Tuesday on the road.