Kendrick limited its first-round playoff opponent Hephzibah to three field goals over the final 12 minutes Tuesday night to turn a seven-point game at halftime into a blowout.
However, for a Lady Cherokees squad looking to live up to the program’s championship expectations, it wasn’t the focused effort coach Sterling Hicks was looking for.
Hicks, who coached Kendrick to state titles in 2008 and 2014, wasn’t pleased with his team’s approach until they started to pull away midway through the third quarter.
“Right now, we tell them everyday they are nowhere near those other teams. Hopefully they have it in them to prove us wrong,” Hicks said.
A technical foul call on Hephzibah’s Lariya Ross sparked an 11-2 run from Kendrick. The four-point possession was the turning point as Destiny Murph scored nine points during the stretch, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key. She led her team with 19 points and was one of five Cherokees players in double-digits. Brittany Thompson added 15. Kiara Price and Jabreia Burston had 10 apiece.
It was an important turnaround for Murph, who opened the half getting pulled from the court after she missed a wide-open layup and proceeded to turn the ball over in the backcourt.
“My younger kids went in with a lot more energy and enthusiasm like they wanted to be here,” Hicks said. “The older ones followed them. It kind of worked backward for us tonight, but we’ll take it.”
Kendrick’s struggles on the offensive end of the floor let Hephzibah hang around early in the game.
The Lady Cherokees generated plenty of turnovers in the first half (13), running their patented full court press, but left their coach exasperated missing shot after shot inside the paint.
“You know how you are so mad, you shouldn’t say nothing?” Hicks said with a smile. “I probably shouldn’t say nothing.”
Hephzibah’s Emani Mayo had eight of her 10 first-half points in the second quarter, hitting a pair of open 3-point shots in the inal two minutes. Mayo had game-high 23 points while her twin sister Nicolette Mayo finished the game with 22 points and 10 of 11 from the free throw line.
Kendrick advances to the second round on Friday when it will travel to face Region 6 champion Sonoraville.
Tuesday at Kendrick
Hephzibah 6 19 13 19 — 57
Kendrick 12 20 24 25 — 81
Emani Mayo 23, Nicolette Mayo 22, Regina Wright 7, Tynika Smallwood 2, Lariya Ross 1, Alexis Bryant 1, Daniya Fields 1
Destiny Murph 19, Brittany Thompson 15, Kiara Price 10, Jabreia Burston 10, Jada Minor 10, Raven Baker 6, Oriyana Babatua 5, Jayde Everette 4
Records: Hepzibah 10-19. Kendrick 26-2. Kendrick, at Sonoraville, on Friday.