By Richard Greene
With senior starting point guard Sarah Davis back on the Lady Greyhounds’ bench to watch her teammates for the first time since last week’s accident, Ashton Stroope did her best impression of the four-year starter.
Stroope knocked down three huge three-pointers and made two timely second-half assists to help the Lady Greyhounds hold off the Saint Jo Lady Panthers for a 49-42 victory at the Pantherdome Tuesday night.
“It’s very different and I’m not used to running the one,” said Stroope about playing point guard. “It’s a change.”
Stroope finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
“This was probably her best game of the year,” said Slidell coach Cody Vanover about Stroope. “It shows the character she has. She came through when she had to.”
The win extended Slidell’s district winning streak to 31 games and put them in sole possession of first place in District 17-A at 5-0. The Lady Greyhounds moved to 12-11 on the year.
“We’re very excited. It’s s a good accomplishment to keep the streak going this long,” said Slidell senior Katy Stephens, who led the Lady Greyhounds with 16 points.
Stroope and Stephens said the team got a lift from having Davis at the game. Davis was ejected from a vehicle in an accident Jan. 2. She was in a Plano hospital until Friday. She arrived shortly before the opening tip, receiving an ovation from the visiting Slidell crowd.
“We wanted to win for her,” Stephens said.
Vanover added: “It gave us a little motivation when Sarah walked in. It’s hard not having her on the floor, but it’s nice to have her here.”
That motivation was evident every time Saint Jo threatened. After the Lady Panthers took their largest lead of three, 16-13, midway through the second quarter, Stroope buried a three-pointer to tie the game. The long range shot sparked an 8-0 Slidell run. Stroope capped the run a second three-pointer to put the Lady Greyhounds up 21-16.
“I knew I had to hit them,” Stroope said. “With Sarah gone, it’s crucial to hit those shots.”
Slidell took a 21-18 lead into halftime.
Stroope extended the lead to six, 24-18, knocking down a three-pointer to open the second half.
Saint Jo fought back to within two, 28-26, with 2:30 left in the third quarter on a layup from Brooklyn McPherson-Lyons.
Slidell responded with a 5-0 run to close the quarter. Stroope fed an open Stephens for a three-pointer to put Slidell up seven, 33-26, heading to the fourth quarter.
Saint Jo got back within four, 37-33, on a Kyla Reeves basket with 5:07 remaining. Reeves finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
“You feel that you have her blocked out and then you’re all the way out to the free-throw line,” Stephens said.
Vanover added about the junior Reeves: “She’s the best rebounder that I’ve ever coached against.”
Saint Jo took a shot at cutting the Slidell lead to one, but missed the mark. The next trip down the floor, Stroope hit Caitlin Pruett under the basket for a layup to push the lead back to six, 39-33.
“That find of Caitlin on the block was big,” Vanover said.
Pruett finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Stephens, who missed five of her first six free throws, put the game away at the line down the stretch. She hit her final six free throws, including four in the final 1:05 to stretch the lead to 10, 49-39.
“I was getting extremely frustrated,” Stephens said about missing the early free throws. “At the end, I knew I had to hit these.”
Brooke Rhodes had nine points for the Lady Greyhounds.
McPherson-Lyons led Saint Jo with 12 points. Macey Hall added 10 points.