Trailing by two points at the end of the first quarter, Paul Laurence Dunbar coach Nick Runyon got after his team about valuing the ball after a turnover-filled period.
They responded, using a 20-point second quarter to turn things around and come away with a 52-45 win over Tates Creek in their 43rd District opener. It was the second such game for the Commodores (1-5), who defeated Lexington Christian last week to open district play.
Sophomore Mashayla Cecil paced Dunbar with 24 points — her fourth game of at least 20 points this season — while junior Autumn Herriford chipped in 17 to help the Bulldogs rally.
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“This was a big game because it was our first district game so we just had to come out and meet ’em right away,” Cecil said. “ ... I think we were a little nervous but we picked it up. Once (Coach Runyon) yelled at us a little bit we got it.”
Cecil said it took Dunbar (3-3) a minute to get going because they were without starting forward Peyton Humphreys, their third-leading scorer. Humphreys was injured in the Bulldogs’ loss over the weekend to Southwestern in the Lady Defender Classic.
“I think we had to move the ball a little bit more and get other players involved because she was a big part of our offense,” Cecil said.
Tates Creek had success pressuring the Bulldogs in the first quarter. Runyon said his girls needed to learn a bit more about competing and winning small battles — getting after loose balls, following their shots — on the court.
“We went on a good run at the end of the second quarter to give us a decent cushion,” Runyon said. “It seemed like for a minute there that the girls had had enough and they had challenged themselves. The middle portion of the game was really good and we have to learn to finish better.”
Runyon credited the Commodores for creating havoc with their pressure and effort on defense. “They’re very aggressive and fast. I’m very impressed with the new coach (Jan Perkins) and the girls that they have.”
Learning to finish “has got to come from inside,” Runyon said. “There’s got to be a killer mentality.” The Bulldogs saw an 18-point lead dwindle down to seven by the game’s final horn.
“If you give them an inch, they’ll come back and take a mile,” Runyon said.
Nave Winn led Tates Creek with 13 points, the final two coming on a driving layup. (My initial tweet from the game credited her twin sister, Lataya Winn, with the score. Lataya finished with five points.)
Paul Laurence Dunbar 52, Tates Creek 45
Tates Creek (1-5) — Wilson 8, L. Winn 5, N. Winn 13, Watts 8, Brown 8, Abdus-Salam 1, Taylor 2.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (3-3) — Herriford 17, Cecil 24, Fullwood 7, Natour 2, Sympson 2.
Paul Laurence Dunbar