Octavia Kierce scored 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds during Tuesday's big Region 1-A win against Miller County.
PELHAM — Let’s go.
It’s a simple phrase, but it’s all The Herald No. 3 Pelham Lady Hornets need to get motivated these days.
It’s worked all season, and it worked Tuesday night during Pelham’s 61-40 blowout victory against Region 1-A foe Miller County.
“I tell my teammates, ‘Let’s go.’ That’s all I say is, ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ ” said senior Octavia Kierce, who led the Lady Hornets (15-1, 9-0) with 21 points and seven rebounds and helped them push their winning streak to 15 games.
So when Pelham coach Antonia Tookes gave her team an inspirational speech during halftime, Kierce’s message was the same as she walked out of the locker room.
And her teammates were listening.
“I don’t really say anything, but I say, ‘Let’s go’ after her,” said freshman Briunna Freeman, who added 18 points and five rebounds for the Lady Hornets, who look primed to cruise to their second straight region title this season. “Then I clap my hands, because (Kierce) just gets us pumped up. She says, ‘Let’s go,’ and I just jump up and down.”
Tookes implored her players to pick up their defense in the second half after taking a 34-19 lead into the locker room, and the Lady Hornets came out energized in the third quarter, opening up the half with a 15-7 lead and putting plenty of cushion between themselves and Miller, which fell to 6-7 overall and 4-4 in region play.
Since losing to Class AAAAA Tift County in the first game of the season, the Lady Hornets haven’t been beaten — and their defense is a big reason why. On Tuesday night, they forced 17 turnovers and forced Miller County into one contested shot after another.
“We played really good defense, and defense wins ball games,” Tookes said. “Anytime you hold a team to 40 points and score more than they do, especially a good shooting team like (Miller), we played really good defense.”
It’s obvious to Miller County coach Nate George who is the team to beat in the region.
“(Pelham) is deep. They are a deep team, and (Tookes) plays a lot of players. A lot of us in the region don’t have enough depth,” said George, whose Lady Pirates had won two games in a row against Cairo and Early County before falling to the Lady Hornets.
Pelham’s depth — and its defensive intensity — starts with Kierce and Freeman.
“Those two players always play defense, and the other three are coming around,” Tookes said. “Octavia was the glue for the team last year, and she seems to be the glue again this year. Freeman is an added bonus, even though she is a freshman. She comes with defense every night, and she gets most of her points off of defense.”
Miller stayed right with Pelham in the first quarter and even led at one point early in the contest. The Lady Hornets led by just two points at the end of the first quarter, and then watched as Miller tied it up at 16-16 three minutes into the second quarter.
After Pelham knotted up the score, Freeman hit a 3-pointer that sparked a Lady Hornets’ 18-3 run to end the half. During that second quarter, Pelham was 9-for-17 from the floor and scored many off their buckets off of turnovers, and the Lady Hornets came out just as hot in the second half.
Mallory Diamond scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Miller, though she shot just 4-for-17 from the field and 7-for-17 from the free throw line.
Antrenette Roseborough added 13 points for the Lady Pirates, while Asia Goss had five points and nine rebounds.
Also for Pelham, Timbreanna Hudson had 10 points and four rebounds.
Pelham’s defense made it nearly unbeatable Tuesday, but the Lady Hornets, who will put their winning streak to the test Friday against Colquitt County, aren’t even at the top of their game right now, Tookes said.
“We’ve got some more work to do. I am not happy,” Tookes said. “We need to work on defense, and we need to work on offense. We haven’t reached our peak yet. We are still looking for one or more people to step up and score, and when we get them to step up and score then we can really play.”
MILLER BOYS 55, PELHAM 40: Second place in the sub-region was up for grabs when the Pirates and Hornets met up, and Nick Price scored 17 points to lead Miller County past Pelham.
Miller County improved to 7-7 overall and 5-3 in the region, while Pelham fell to 8-8 overall and 6-4 in region play. Both teams sit behind Mitchell County in the sub-region.
“This was a huge win for us,” Miller County coach Tim Martin said. “This was a big region game for us. They are scrappy just like us, and we were just holding on trying to get this win.”
Miller had lost five in a row before Tuesday’s win and hadn’t won in 2012. But the Pirates outscored Pelham, 15-8, in the third quarter, putting distance in between the two teams and sending Pelham to its third loss in a row.
“This is the first time we haven’t had any problems in the third quarter,” Martin said. “We have been playing a lot of teams tough, like Bainbridge, Early County, Mitchell County. But this is the first game we have had where we have had a good third quarter.”
Also scoring in double figures for Miller were Jeremy Stevens with 15 and Lamar Perkins with 12, while Steve Mango and Shaquille Crimbley scored 11 and 10, respectively, for the Hornets.