LAFAYETTE — St. Thomas More girls basketball coach Stephen Strojny said the Cougars game against Northside went according to plan in the first half.
“We told our girls, we thought they’d be winning in the first half and we’d hope to be tied going into the fourth quarter,” Strojny said. “I didn’t expect to come out like gangbusters in the second half.”
Northside owned the first half and led 24-20, exactly as Strojny predicted, but the Cougars went on a 16-5 run to open the third quarter and took a 41-34 lead into the fourth quarter on the way to a 67-42 victory.
STM opened the fourth quarter on a 13-2 run that put the game out of reach. No performance was bigger than Bailey Hemphill, who scored 14 of her game-high 24 points in the second half.
“Every time I think I have seen it all from Bailey Hemphill or every time I think I’ve seen the best game she’s ever played, she does something like she did (Friday night),” Strojny said.
“At one point, she just came off the court and said, ‘Give me the ball. I can get to the rim.’ So we got her the ball ,and she took care of the rest. She is a special player.”
Hemphill shied away from any credit after the game, saying the win was a team effort.
“My team did a really good job of getting me open,” Hemphill said. “I just took advantage of it. I am not going to be the selfish player that says I need this many points. If the shot is there, I’ll take it. If someone else is open, I will get them the ball.”
Strojny said the halftime adjustment to play faster played into the Cougars’ strength.
“It’s no secret we are a fast team,” he said. “We can hold the ball if we need to, but we want to be fast. Our point guard, Avery Breaux, is as fast as you’re going to see in the state. She’s a pass first, pass second point guard, and that makes all the difference.”
Strojny admitted that at times, Northside’s size gave them fits. The Vikings got 16 from Brianna Dixon and 11 from Tach Ledet. Strojny said the strategy to initiate contact on the bigger players worked to the Cougars’ advantage.
“It’s hard to take their size away when you have girls twice as small,” Strojny said. “We wanted to initiate contact early and take that size away. We just beat them to the spot, and I think that was the difference in the game.”
Strojny said since sophomore Megan Abrams left the team earlier this month, there has been a lot of doubt surrounding the team. He said Friday’s game shows, they aren’t going away quietly.
“For our district, this is a statement that says we aren’t going anywhere,” he said. “A lot of people assumed since we had one of our players quit, the season was over. When one of your best players quits, someone has to step up. It’s not personal, it’s just a sense of what do we need to do to win.”
Hemphill echoed her coach’s statements, saying the performance Friday was to prove a point.
“A lot of people have been doubting us since Megan left,” Hemphill said. “We all think we are just as good ,and we proved that (Friday night). There is more than one person who can score on this team. We proved that we are a team, and that one player doesn’t define our whole team.”