SILER CITY — They say it’s hard to beat a team twice in a single season.
Jordan-Matthews women’s basketball is evidence that’s not always true.
On Dec. 6, the Jets earned their first win of the season — and their first Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference victory — in a nail-biter against the North Moore Mustangs.
By the end of the third quarter, J-M held on to a one-point lead, 40-39, heading to the deciding fourth period.
However, the Jets took flight in the contest’s final frame, outscoring the Mustangs, 20-10, en route to an 11-point victory behind 22 points from senior Eillia Wright and 19 from senior Tatyn Siler.
After being hammered by 18-plus points in their first three games, the Jets emerged victorious as they fought and scrapped their way to a win that’s since helped them gain their footing in the conference.
But last Thursday, when the Mustangs took their first trip to J-M in over a decade, the competitiveness of the first matchup seemed like ancient history.
Instead of sealing a narrow, late-game win, Jordan-Matthews (5-8, 3-2 in conference) pummeled North Moore (1-8, 0-4 in conference), 50-21, in a game that was truly never in doubt.
“We finally put four quarters together, that’s something we’ve been talking about, just putting a full game together,” Lamont Piggie, the Jets’ first-year head coach, said after the win. “Just doing the little things: pressuring the ball, hustling for loose balls and carrying each quarter. … They bought into it today and believed in themselves.”
From the jump, it was clear the rematch had a much different feel from the original.
Instead of the Mustangs clutching to a one-point lead, 13-12, after the first quarter — as was the case on Dec. 6 — the Jets dominated the opening period from start to finish.
In the first quarter alone, J-M outscored North Moore, 21-0, pitching a shutout in the game’s first eight minutes.
The key to the Jets’ hot start: their seemingly unstoppable press.
With each J-M bucket, the Jets did everything possible to make the Mustangs’ journey to half court a strenuous one.
And most of the time, they succeeded.
North Moore turned the ball over 14 times in the first period — nearly half of their 32-turnover total — including eight before they even reached mid-court, a direct product of J-M’s suffocating press.
“We’ve been (running the press) all year, but today … we pretty much mastered it,” Piggie said. “Getting to our spots, hustling, taking away the middle, denying the ball, just moving. It has to happen where all five girls come together and that’s what happened today.”
Wright, who accounts for one-half of the Jets’ impressive senior duo, thrived when it came to stifling her opponents in green.
Toward the start of the first period, Wright drained a 3-pointer, then immediately got back into position to guard the inbound pass. Once the ball was thrown in, she stepped in front, stole the pass and put the ball in the bucket with ease.
Then, just a few seconds later, she did it again, stealing the inbound pass and allowing one of her teammates to score.
In a matter of 15 seconds, the Jets’ lead went from 1-0 to 8-0, all thanks to Wright’s energy and heads-up playmaking.
“Like I’ve said, she’s our engine, she gets it done for us,” Piggie said. “She just kind of locked in. I looked at her face and there was a different (Eillia) today, so I was really happy and satisfied with her. She came to play.”
The Mustangs broke their scoreless streak within the first minute of the second quarter with a basket in the paint, but continued to struggle offensively throughout the period, adding just five total points in the half and allowing the Jets to take a 31-5 lead going into the locker room.
If Wright was the focal point for the Jets in the first period, then Siler was just that in the second.
Siler had a field day when it came to getting to the basket, scoring all four of her second-quarter field goals around the rim — including a couple in transition, one of her specialities.
She accounted for 8 of her team’s 10 points in the second frame.
“She’s getting better and she’s starting to see everything — starting to see the offense — like we want her to see it and she’s letting the game come to her,” Piggie said. “We told them from the beginning that we want to press on defense and we want to get turnovers and run the floor. That’s what happens when you run the floor, you get easy points, so she showed up big. She was huge for us.”
When it was all said and done, Wright (19) and Siler (17) combined for 36 of the team’s 50 points.
If you were looking for the team’s leaders, there they are.
North Moore only mustered five points in the third quarter, two fewer than Wright (7 points) had alone. By the time the third-quarter buzzer sang, the Jets had a 46-10 advantage.
In the fourth, the Mustangs outscored the Jets, 11-4, but primarily due to late-game turnovers by the Jets’ bench, which entered the game about midway through the period.
With the dominant win, J-M holds strong to fourth place in the conference with a 3-2 record.
They have dates with Graham (third place, Jan. 28), Chatham Central (first place, Jan. 29) and Seaforth (second place, Feb. 1) over the next week, lining up the perfect opportunity to catapult themselves up the standings — or solidify a fourth-place-or-worse finish.
Piggie seems to have faith that it’ll be the former.
“We know what we can do now, we know what we’re able to do, how we’re able to play defense, what we can do offensively,” Piggie said. “We just have to keep believing in ourselves and knowing that, ‘Hey, this is what we’re capable of.’ We’ve been telling them all year that it’s going to click. We’re almost there.”
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.
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