High School Sports

Corinth Holders girls double up Smithfield-Selma

Smithfield-Selma head coach Stacy Holland talks to her team during a loss to Corinth Holders.
Smithfield-Selma head coach Stacy Holland talks to her team during a loss to Corinth Holders. newsobserver.com

Corinth Holders is hoping to utilize an effective case of double identity in defense of its Two Rivers Conference girls basketball championship.

With a talented backcourt to go with a deep group of developing frontliners, the Pirates have the potential to excel in both full-court and half-court sets – an assessment that was evident during Corinth Holders’ league-opening 46-23 road victory Thursday at Smithfield-Selma.

Fueled by the solid play of point guard Shaniya Taylor, Corinth Holders (6-3 overall, 1-0 TRC) never trailed while dissecting Smithfield-Selma’s zone defense with crisp passing and timely shooting. The Pirates also picked up several easy transition baskets, thanks in part to Taylor’s unique blend of speed and smarts.

“In practice, we work on transition for 50 percent of the time and executing our half-court offense the other 50 percent,’’ Smith said. “In girls high school basketball, you usually only see teams that are good at one or the other, so we have definitely stressed being able to do both. You never know what kind of team you are going to go up against.’’

Corinth Holders’ opponent on Thursday was a rebuilding Smithfield-Selma (1-10, 0-1) club under first-year head coach Stacy Holland. The Spartans were coming off their initial victory of the season earlier this week against West Johnston, but they never threatened after the Pirates jumped to an early 7-0 advantage.

“We struggled a bit,’’ Holland said. “It wasn’t our best game. We couldn’t hit a shot and we didn’t box out very well. As our shots kept missing, our confidence went down a bit. We definitely can play better than we did.’’

Turning point

With her club already ahead 20-7 at halftime, Smith encouraged her team to pick up the pace offensively -- and the Pirates responded with an uptempo 13-0 burst to begin the third period. Taylor came through with nine points and one assist during the flurry. Two of her baskets were on breakaway layups after steals.

“We came out with some good pressure early in the second half and got some turnovers,’’ Smith said. “We had three or four straight possessions when we got steals and turned them into easy points. We were able to stretch out that lead.’’

Three who mattered

Shaniya Taylor, Corinth Holders: An impact player on both offense and defense, Taylor came through with 18 points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals. While Taylor’s open-floor game has always been a strength, she has also been sharp in half-court sets this season, and she has the vision to find open teammates, especially near the basket for high-percentage shots.

Maddy Gladwell, Corinth Holders: A senior veteran, Gladwell provides a perfect backcourt mate for Taylor. Her 25-footer at the buzzer pushed the Pirates ahead 12-3 after one frame, and she would finish with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Logan Lee, Smithfield-Selma: Lee, a sophomore guard, paced the Spartans with eight points to go with six rebounds. She has played a key role this season for the youthful Spartans and is expected to be a cornerstone of Holland’s building process.

Out of bounds

Corinth Holders has been blessed with quality point guards during the school’s brief existence. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but Smith played the same position during her career at Goldsboro High School and Mount Olive College. Because of her experience at the point, Smith has high expectations for Taylor, who hasn’t disappointed during her first season with the Pirates.

“It’s nice when you have a point guard who has the capability to do what Shaniya does,’’ Smith said. “It’s fun to coach a player like that. But I guess since I was also a point guard, I am on (Taylor) the most.”

By the numbers

13: Points scored by Taylor during the decisive third period. She even came through with a jumper at the buzzer to close the quarter and push the Pirates’ lead to 39-12.

2: Seniors on Smithfield-Selma’s roster. And due to illness, the Spartans dressed only eight players for Thursday’s contest.

“We are a young team,’’ Holland said. “We just have to keep working on the basics every day. We are still trying to teach some of our younger players about high school varsity basketball. One thing about our team is that we don’t quit. We play hard the entire game.’’

1: The number of conference outings each team will have before the holiday break. The next round of Two Rivers games will be January 8.

7-0 and 13-0: Runs the Pirates started the first and third quarters with, respectively.