Tough ‘D’¬†helps Cubs’ girls seize control

The team that controls the tempo of a basketball game more often than not comes out on top.

University High executed that strategy to perfection Tuesday night, pounding Episcopal on the road 63-38 in a Class 2A girls basketball game.

U-High (17-5) picked up 15 steals and forced 22 turnovers with its tight defense The Cubs converted those turnovers and steals into countless breakaway opportunities on offense.

“The pace of the game was all in U-High’s favor,” said Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois. “We are not a team with a lot of depth and can’t play that style for that long. You’ve got to have the depth to do it.”

The Cubs played 10 girls, with four scoring in double digits. Alainie Fisher led the way with 14 points, followed by Di’Mond Jackson with 13, Mikayla Bates with 12 and Terriel Ross with 10.

In contrast, Episcopal (17-10) played seven girls, and only four made at least a bucket.

Bria Johnson scored a game-high 19 points, adding nine rebounds and a pair of steals to her night, followed by Mary Melissa Hoover, who scored 12 points.

“At times we played our style and made it a half-court game, but three quarters of the game was definitely their pace,” Bourgeois said. “If you don’t have the depth, it’s eventually going to wear on you when you’re only playing seven girls.”

Bates, a point guard, did the most damage defensively for U-High, chalking up six steals. Jackson snagged three steals of her own and four other Cubs had at least one steal.

The game began as a back-and-forth slugfest, with neither side taking control early. But stout defense helped spark U-High’s offense late in the first quarter when the Cubs hit a 13-2 run to pull ahead by 11 at the end of the quarter.

“We caused a lot of turnovers on their part and turned them into layups off of that,” said U-High coach Bonita Johnson. “The pressure was effective the first half for us.”

Episcopal cut the lead to single digits midway through the second quarter, but U-High still led 35-22 at halftime.

The Cubs exploded for 18 third-quarter points to give themselves a 22-point cushion heading into the final quarter.

“We like to push the ball. We like the fast-paced (style),” Johnson said. “That’s something that we’ve done and something that will continue to do.”

U-High improved to a 6-0 in league play, and the loss dropped Episcopal to 5-1 in district.

It was just the second time this season Episcopal allowed more than 60 points in a game, but Bourgeois pulled some positives from the game going into the final
four games of the regular season.

“Half of your girls are freshmen who haven’t experienced something like this before,” Bourgeois said. “It’s going to make us a better team. U-High is No. 1 in the power rankings for a reason. They are a quality team, and we’ve just got to learn our strengths and our weaknesses. Tonight, we played more to our weaknesses and played more to U-High’s strengths.”