RED SPRINGS — For the first time in 2018, Steve Sinclair sees a Red Springs girls basketball team that can defend its Three Rivers Conference championship.
“We had a little adversity around Christmas time. I feel like now we’re getting back to the team that we were at the beginning (of the season),” the Lady Devils coach said.
“I feel like that’s the team we have now.”
Behind the scoring of Taya Jones and Taylynn Atkinson, the Lady Devils continued their quest for back-to-back titles with a convincing 60-30 win over West Bladen on Tuesday.
“Since we won last year, everybody’s been out to beat us,” said Jones, who logged a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Everyone thinks they can beat us, but my team has confidence and we feel like we can win it again.”
After losing to the Lady Knights by 22 points in the last meeting, the Lady Devils (18-6) were determined to get their groove back on Tuesday.
“This had to be a revenge game, but at the same time you have to know that the conference tournament championship goes through you and you need to play like it,” Sinclair said.
Jones got the Lady Devils started by scoring scored 10 first-half points to help her squad carry a 30-10 lead into the break.
Taylynn Atkinson kept the momentum going by scoring 12 of her game-high 21 points after the break. Atkinson flirted with a triple-double, nabbing seven steals to go with five rebounds.
Sinclair knows what he’s going to get out of Atkinson and Jones on the offensive end each night. He pointed to the team’s defense as its key to claiming some additional hardware at the end of the week.
“That’s the most important part. With us, everything we do is predicated off of our defense,” he said. “Taya can score in the half court, Taylynn can score in the half court. But in order for the entire team to contribute, we have to do it on the defensive end.”
The Lady Devils passed their first test by holding West Bladen to single digits in three of the four quarters. Red Springs started the final period on a 17-7 run to balloon the lead out to 32 points after a layup by Selina Franco with under a minute left to play.
“Defensively, we have to get steals and we have to get out (in transition),” Jones said. “That’s how we get started. We get steals and we finish at the basket.”
With the majority of his players back in uniform, Sinclair is ready for the stretch run. It continues with Thursday’s semifinal matchup against West Columbus at East Bladen.
“Everybody’s back healthy and we’re ready to go at ‘em,” he said. “Let’s get through this week and move on to next week.”
Red Devils outlast South Columbus
Behind three players in double figures, the Red Springs boys basketball team earned a 53-48 win over South Columbus in the opening round of the Three Rivers Conference tournament to secure a spot in Thursday’s semifinals.
Monte’ Wilkerson scored 16 points and dished out three assists for the Red Devils (17-7). Nichorie West tallied 10 points and six rebounds, with Caleel Mitchell also adding 10 points.
Red Springs will face West Columbus on Thursday at East Bladen.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.