ORANGE — An explosive first half propelled the Monticello girls basketball team to a 71-30 victory over Orange County on Friday night in the Mustangs’ first action in nearly a week.
After winter weather and poor travel conditions postponed two of their games earlier in the week, the Mustangs were eager to see the court. The break, however, didn’t appear to slow them down.
“Our biggest struggle this season was consistently putting together four quarters,” Monticello coach Juwuhn Smith said. “I think this was one of those games where we were able to play four straight quarters and it actually showed. They know they can do it but now it’s them seeing that they can do it in the game.”
Sariyah Hughes began the scoring for Monticello with a 3-pointer and teammate Jasmine White added back-to-back buckets before Orange got on the scoreboard.
Almost immediately, the Mustangs responded with baskets from Abby Shell and Katelyn Hughes before MHS went on a 22-point run that bridged the first two quarters and put the Mustangs in firm control.
Eight different players scored during the opening half for Monticello, including four that hit 3-pointers, as the Mustangs built a 41-8 halftime advantage.
“We have to hustle and we didn’t in the first half,” Hornets coach Willie Alexander said. “They outhustled us. Monticello will hustle and they probably shot, I bet 90% of their points were layups.”
Following the break, it was more of the same as Hughes and senior Zhynia Johnson dominated the offensive production for Monticello.
MHS ended the night with three players scoring in double figures. Riley Davis finished as the game’s leading scorer with 11 points, while Shell and Johnson each added 10 for the Mustangs.
Orange County finally gained some traction in the final quarter. Riley Harrington and Hadasha Aquin led the resurgence for the Fighting Hornets in the final quarter but it wasn’t enough to erase the large deficit.
Despite the loss, Alexander is feeling positive about his team’s future and feels like his team has been progressing over the course of the season.
“We didn’t lay down in the second half and that was a big positive,” he said. “We have five freshmen out there and four of them were on the floor most of the second half. You are going to see some changes in the future.”
Orange County will travel to face Eastern View on Monday. The Mustangs will make up one of their missed games on Saturday when they take on Albemarle.
“I feel really good, especially considering how this week went,” Smith said. “We haven’t really took a lot of time in the gym this week with the snow days. That was the biggest thing from tonight. Seeing what we needed to see and then being able to get that break for the players need to get breaks so we can still be ready for [Saturday].”