April 16, 2021

Lady Braves top Greenwave in Region 5-AA opener

The 2019-2020 Heard County Lady Braves varsity basketball team (Seated L-R): Briana Labaff, Jasmine Owens, Morgan Kay, Zekylah “Z” Boyd, Sophia Long, Brooklyn Curbow (Standing L-R): Shyann Kelley, Hermonie Garza, Tori Caldwell, Mykhia Echols, Amaya Hammel, Lynsey Glover (Photo: Shaqueri Talmadge)

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Lady Braves varsity basketball team scored a much-needed 50-25 win over Spencer Friday night at HCHS in the Region 5-AA opening game of the season.

Coach Helen Akins’ squad put together a strong team effort on the offensive end of the floor with six Lady Braves scoring at least four points including all five starters.

The most important key to the win came under the defensive basket as the team held the Greenwave to just eight second-half points. The Lady Braves shut out the visitors 10-0 in the third quarter.

Senior Tori Caldwell and junior Hermonie Garza led the way with 12 points each with senior Morgan Kay not far behind with nine.

Freshman Jasmine Owens came off the bench to score eight points while sophomore Zekylah Boyd had five and junior Sophia Long finished with four after missing significant minutes due to early foul trouble.

On the boards it was Garza leading the way with nine rebounds while Kay hauled down eight and Caldwell had seven. Sophia Long led the squad in assists with six.

“It just feels so good to watch those kids go out there pay relentless and execute and do all the things we’ve been working to get better at during these difficult non-region games we’ve been playing — and to just watch the smiles on their faces they were having fun too which makes a huge difference, said Coach Akins after the game. “I’m just super proud of the effort tonight mentally and physically.”

Akins says Jasmine Owens continues to be an important new face on the 2019-2020 team.

“Jasmine Owens is such a phenomenal kid — mentally she doesn’t play like a freshman. She’s had to adjust to the speed of the game after coming over from middle school but mentally she’s ready to go she’s ready to lead she’s ready to be coached and ever time you say anything to her she is just yes ma’am, yes ma’am, yes ma’am.”

Akins says her starting upperclassmen Caldwell, Kay, Garza, and Long have continued to develop into leadership roles along with junior Lynsey Glover.

In boys’ action, the Braves are trying to find traction under new head coach Derek Smith after a couple of starting players quit the team. The Braves fell to a talented Greenwave squad 85-37 in Friday’s nightcap, but Smith says he was glad to see some strong second half fight from the eight players who were dressed for the game.

“I think in the second half when the guys stopped worrying about messing up in front of their friends and stopped worrying about what Spencer was going to do and just ran our stuff we played a lot better and it showed that even against the best in the region if we  just play hard and run our stuff we can play with anybody, said Coach Smith after the contest. “A lot of it just a learning curve –for man of these guys this was only their eighth high school game ever.”

Smith says his young team needs to worry about the smaller things that they can control in order to improve as a team.

“We just need to keep showing little improvements. Instead of just focusing on the score we need to focus on smaller goals like holding the other team to 20% shooting in a quarter or getting five extra offensive possessions. Just having little things we can accomplish that show improvement — as long as you keep improving you will get to the point that you can win some games.”

With no seniors and only three juniors on the roster, many young of the young guys are getting lots of minutes and time to show improvements. Smith says one player that has already improved immensely is sophomore Evan Walls.

“The guy that has had the biggest jump is Evan. That’s a kid that this summer was playing JV in our summer league games and now he’s our starting varsity center. Everyone has made improvements but he has definitely made the biggest jump,” says Smith.

Scoring leaders for the Braves in Friday night’s loss were Ayden Cannon and Isaiah O’Neal with eight points each, Khalil Cofield with seven, and RoRo Edmondson with six on two 3-point baskets including one at the final buzzer.

The Braves will continue play in Region 5-AA when they travel to Lagrange Tuesday to take on arch rival Callaway. The girls will tip at 6:00 PM followed by the boys at 7:30 PM.

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