With Northside leading by six points, and less than three minutes remaining, Cassaundra Wilson found herself facing a teachable moment in a tense situation.
The Lady Eagles’ head coach had just watched leading scorer Jasmine Wilson take umbrage with the way Howard’s Taylor Thorpe had tied up her dribble for a jump ball. Officials had to separate the players before Cassaundra Wilson walked her player to the corner of the court and put two arms around her neck.
Cassaundra Wilson knew that convincing Jasmine Wilson to harness that passion and channel it into her game would not only go a long way in fending off the Lady Huskies on Wednesday in the second day of the 11th annual Great Southern Shootout at Westside but for the remainder of the season, as well.
After collecting her composure on the bench and thinking about her coach’s counsel, Jasmine Wilson returned to the floor and blocked Chelsea Stuckey’s 3-point try with eight seconds left that would have tied the game, secured the loose ball before being fouled and hit a free throw to seal the Lady Eagles’ 30-26 win.
The sequence embodied the game-long effort, as Northside (6-2) used a swarming defense to limit Howard (4-5) to a season-low point total.
“We stress that there are no excuses for not hustling on defense,” Cassaundra Wilson said. “We may be limited on the offensive end of the floor at times, but we demand everything they have on the defensive end.”
The Lady Eagles also forced 17 turnovers, with 11 coming in the second half.
“We worked a lot on controlling our one-on-one matchups,” Cassaundra Wilson said. “They have good ball-handlers, so I didn’t think we would be able to get steals. We just tried to trap and contain.”
Howard managed just one field goal in a first quarter that ended with Northside leading 5-4. The teams, however, traded the lead 10 times throughout the next 16 minutes.
Howard’s Vaqueshia Hall, who finished with six points, came off the bench to spark the Lady Huskies to a three-point lead midway through the quarter. Northside countered with a 6-2 run to close the period, allowing the Lady Eagles to take a one-point advantage to the final quarter.
“We missed box-outs and gave them too many second shots,” Howard head coach Latavia Coleman said. “They capitalized on our mistakes.”
The Lady Eagles never trailed in the final quarter. Howard’s Tierra Johnson made it interesting though when her 3-pointer pulled the Lady Huskies to within three points while Wilson, who finished with a team-high eight points was on the bench.
“I was concerned but not overly concerned, because I felt like we wouldn’t give up another (3-pointer) that easy,” Cassaundra Wilson said.
That’s when Jasmine Wilson made her game-saving stop.
“They are a good defensive team -- in your face, always pressuring,” Coleman said. “They play a lot like we do. We gave them problems as well. They were just able to take advantage a little better.”
Stuckey finished with a game-high nine points.