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Laney girls clamp down on defense


Hoggard's Brianna Smith (21) looks to pass the ball under pressure from Laney's Amber Doniere (44) at Hoggard High School Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. (Photo by StarNews file)


The Laney High School girls basketball team has taken stingy to a whole new level this season.

Through 13 games, Laney is 12-1. The Buccaneers have shut out an opponent six times in a quarter – two of them for an entire half. They are holding opponents to only 20.9 points per game, and no team has scored 40 points against them.

“When everyone’s on the same page in the half-court, we’re pretty darn good,” Laney coach Sherri Tynes said.

Last Tuesday, Scotland brought an offense scoring nearly 58 points per game to Wilmington. It was smashed to bits against Laney’s brick-wall defense, getting only nine total points in the second and third quarters combined.

This is not a new philosophy for Laney. Tynes prefers to focus on defense because it’s reliable. The Bucs might not be able to score at an elite level, but they can always defend.

“You should be able to count on your defense night in and night out,” Tynes said. “Offensively, you’d like to think you could, but some nights it’s just not going to go in for whatever reasons.”

The Bucs’ experienced core of players has taken that approach to a new level. Laney has seven juniors and seniors with at least two years of varsity experience, and the benefits are evident.

“We’ve gotten used to each other,” senior Kelli Gottry said. “We know where each other are going to be on the court. We’re more together in play, which has helped us because we’ve learned each other.”

Gottry is a good example of Laney’s collective buy-in. She knows she’s not a top scorer, but what she lacks in offensive flair is made up for in defensive grit. She’s averaging 3.4 points and 3.1 steals per game.

“I’ll shoot some, I’ll get my five points a game, but that’s all you’re going to get from me,” Gottry said. “You’ll get a whole lot more from my defense and I think that’s where we all excel.”

Laney also doesn’t rely on a bag of defensive tricks. The Bucs rarely break out a half-court trap or full-court press, preferring to stick to straight man-to-man defense.

Tynes admits her team is “pretty vanilla,” but it’s working pretty well – Laney’s averaging 16.5 steals per game this season.

But the Bucs have sometimes struggled to turn those steals into points at the opposite end, and the result is many defensive-minded, close games.

While the 47-31 win against Scotland is a blowout by Laney standards, the Bucs’ loss to Ashley earlier this season was decided by two points and a late bucket.

Tynes said sometimes it’s a struggle for players to transition from all-out defensive effort to the control necessary to run an offensive play. But players say they don’t mind grinding out close games.

“We definitely like people knowing they we’re going to come at you on defense,” Gottry said. “We’re going to come at you on offense, but defense will be 10 times harder, because that’s what we do.”



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