Pine Bluff girls basketball coach Loy Moore sees a lot of similarities between this year’s Watson Chapel basketball team and last year’s Fillies.
If Moore’s prediction holds, the Lady Wildcats will see plenty of success next season. However, this year could be a struggle.
Pine Bluff showed Chapel what a year of experience at the varsity level can do for a team with a 57-38 win over the Lady Wildcats on Tuesday night at Watson Chapel High School.
“They are very young, they remind me of our team from last year when we started four 10th-graders,” Moore said after the win. “(The Lady Wildcats) are awful young, and there are going to be a lot of frustrations early.
“But they are going to be a good basketball team.”
Coming off a season that saw them reach the 5A final four, the Lady Wildcats (2-3) have struggled early this year with just one senior and one junior on the squad.
Pine Bluff (4-0), on the other hand, starts four juniors and a senior on a team that looks more than capable of improving on last season’s second-place finish in the 7A/6A-South conference.
The Fillies showed their experience from the opening tip and the Lady Wildcats never appeared poised enough to pose a serious threat.
“We shot the ball well,” Moore said. “We played defense well, for the most part; we did have a couple of breakdowns on dribble-drives.
“We had a fear of a slow start, but we took control.”
Pine Bluff jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Watson Chapel head coach Leslie Henderson called a timeout. The Fillies, though, could not be slowed down as they went on to a hold a 19-6 advantage after the first quarter.
“From the start we did what we were supposed to,” said junior Kye Richardson. “Then they started calling fouls and after that we slowed down.”
The Fillies’ pressure defense led to several turnovers by the Lady Wildcats. The high, tight pressure by Pine Bluff’s guards had Henderson visibly frustrated for much of the first half.
“It was a bloodbath,” she said, “and it worked in their favor.”
Junior Jasmyn Eckermann (eight points), senior Ajia Richardson (six) and junior Kye Richardson (five) provided all the first-period points for Pine Bluff.
The trio stepped up as Chapel was able to hold Pine Bluff’s leading scorer Chasity Moore scoreless in Tuesday night’s game.
“She’s been scoring 20 or 20-plus in our first three games,” said point guard Kye Richardson. “They put two people on her, so she has to get open more.”
With Moore being taken away inside, it was Eckermann and Ajia Richardson capitalizing with shots from the outside. And they took advantage, combining for 32 points — 17 for Richardson and 15 for Eckermann — in the contest.
“It’s a good thing we were knocking down the outside shots or we would have been in trouble,” coach Moore said.
Pine Bluff continued to connect from the outside hitting three three-pointers in the second quarter as it doubled-up Chapel (20-10) to take a commanding 39-16 lead into halftime.
With the game out of hand, Henderson looked to her bench players in a move aimed at giving them valuable experience against a rival team.
“We were able to get some of our bench players some good minutes,” she said. “It’s not a total loss.
“We still had some things we could work on.”
Henderson also said she was impressed by one of her starters, freshman Peyton Martin, who scored a team-high 11 points.
“I thought Peyton Martin played really well,” she said. “She did a little better once they took their starters out.”
Henderson said she was unsure of how her team would respond to the 19-point loss, but said she would use a simple message to help her team bounce back.
“This game does not have to make or break our season,” she said.