University High only shot 30 percent from the field against Albany, but with its aggressive defense and full-court pressure it didn’t matter.
The Cubs forced 26 turnovers, and took nearly twice as many shots on their way to a 62-48 win over the Hornets at the U-High gym on Monday night.
Mikayla Bates scored 18 to lead University (8-1), which led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter after taking a 27-24 edge at halftime.
Kaila Anderson (13) and Destiny Ephrom (10) also hit double figures for University, the defending Class 3A champion.
For the game, the Cubs grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, and made 20 of 67 field goal attempts.
“(Defense) drives us,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “Our defense forces turnovers, and we try to score quick baskets off of them. We did a really good job. We were aggressive.”
The District 8-3A Hornets (6-3) were paced by MeMe Sykes’ 17 points but lost steam when she fouled out in the second half. Albany coach Stacy Darouse credited the U-High defenders.
“They’re so athletic,” Darouse said. “There’s no way I can simulate in practice what they do because they’re so talented. Bonita does a great job with them.”
Albany shot 48 percent from the floor (17 of 35) but struggled to get into an offensive rhythm in the face of U-High’s relentless pressure.
“One of our weak points so far has been handling pressure,” Darouse said. “We handled it well at times, and at times we didn’t.
“We’re trying to prepare ourselves for the playoffs, but if we see U-High again, I hope its way, way down the line.”
U-High led 27-24 at halftime, but the Hornets got within 29-27 on Hannah Vicknair’s 3-pointer. From there, the Cubs outscored the Hornets 14-6 to take a 43-33 lead entering the fourth.
Dahlia Johnson hit a 3-pointer, and Ephrom had two baskets to key the run as five different Cubs scored.
In the fourth, Bates had a pair of 3-ponters to spark a 12-2 surge that had U-High ahead 55-35 with five minutes left to play. Albany was only able to get as close as 14 points in the closing minutes.
“We’ve had games where we shot the ball poorly, and tried to work the ball inside,” Bonita Johnson said. “This time it was the opposite so we tried to work the ball to the outside.”
In the first quarter, Sykes got free for a pair of backdoor layups as Albany jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Sykes later converted a three-point play, and hit a 3-pointer helping Albany take a 16-12 lead after one.
A Bates 3-pointer tied the score 18 in the second, part of a 10-0 run by U-High that gave it a 25-18 lead. Sykes and Darilyn Rogers each hit 3-pointers to get the Hornets back within 25-24.
Ephrom hit two free throws to give the Cubs a 27-24 lead at halftime.
“(Albany) can shoot the ball well,” Bonita Johnson said. “I saw them play earlier in the year, and I expect them to be a different team at the end of the year.”