Photo by Derrick Mahone
Ola forward Bradleigh Hooper (No. 11) and Drew’s Brianca Green position themselves to rebound on a free throw attempt by a Lady Titans player in the first half of the Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A contest on Tuesday.
RIVERDALE — When Drew’s pressure defense wasn’t causing Ola trouble, Lady Titans junior Lakiah Sims was giving the visitors fits.
Sims paced Drew with a game-high 22 points as it cruised to a 66-35 win in a Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A contest on Tuesday.
“She has really been carrying our team,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said. “She is that sleeper player that nobody gives credit to. Lakiah has developed into our go-to player.”
And she has responded with inside and perimeter scoring and rebounding. The Lady Titans were expecting a rebuilding season after graduating seven seniors including region player of the year Precious Person, who is a freshman at Rutgers.
Despite no seniors in their lineup, the Lady Titans have compiled a 12-8 overall record and are in second place behind Forest Park in the subregion standings.
“I think a lot of people thought we were going to be down,” Sims said. “We graduated a lot of people, but we had some talented newcomers to step up.”
Sims is the lone returning starter from last season’s squad that finished as runner-up in Region 4-AAA.
This season, the Lady Titans are looking to a starting lineup that consists of two freshmen, two sophomores and Sims to get back to the state playoffs for a third straight season.
Tuesday’s game was the third straight that the team has scored at least 50 points and the fifth time that it has had at least 60 points in a game.
As the final two weeks of the season approaches, Jackson said she is pleased at the progress of her team.
“We knew we would take our bumps and bruises early with such a young team,” she said. “We have a few players with some playing experience. I think the team has started to play well and they have made a commitment to playing better defense.”
And it showed on Tuesday as Ola had trouble on several possessions in advancing the ball upcourt. Drew turned several turnovers into points in building a 40-12 halftime lead.
“Our goal is to set the tone early in games,” Jackson said. “In the early part of the season, we were letting our opponents set the tone. We want to get after it and pressure the other team into making turnovers.”
Although the team graduated a talented cast of players, Jackson said there is still a bull’s-eye on the team’s back.
“We had a lot of success in the first years of the school’s existence,” Jackson said. “We have built a reputation of being a good basketball school. Our opponents usually bring their A-game when they play us.”