Uniform surprise helps MC surprise Emory
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In new orange uniforms — nearly a perfect compliment to Alex Bond’s pony tail — that came fresh out of the box Saturday morning with Garnett numbers and matching socks, Maryville had a bit of morning glory to help recover from a victory just a few hours earlier on Friday night and get ready for an afternoon visit from No. 18 Emory.
The Scots carried that enthusiasm to a 62-46 win in Boydson Baird Gymnasium behind a 23-point effort from Taylor Smith, while holding Emory to its lowest output in its first loss of the season.
“I knew were a little bit tired after grinding out a win last night and we came in this morning a little dragging,” MC coach Darren Travillian said. “I hoped the uniforms would come in this morning and didn’t tell the team. When they did, we surprised them and had them hanging in their lockers. You could hear them screaming down the hall way, so the orange may stay for a while.”
Smith, who struggled for 7 points Friday night against Covenant, bounced back in a big way Saturday going 9-for-13 from the floor and serving as the scoring catalyst in Maryville’s game-changing run in the final five minutes of the first half.
“Coach texted me after the game last night and said, ‘I already know you’re beating up on yourself enough. I’m not going to add to that.’ And I am kind of hard on myself when I’m frustrated and then a couple other players texted me and said, ‘we need you; your shots are going to start falling,’” Smith told The Daily Times. “It was kind of similar at the Centre tournament, where I had a really good first game and a really bad second game, so I was joking with the girls today that maybe I could reverse it and play a really good game today.”
Smith’s effort went beyond the 23 points, beyond the seven rebounds and even beyond the back and forth defensive struggle.
“Last night was an anomaly for her. We talked and you know it averages out,” Travillian said of senior from Stone Memorial High. “But more than that she led. She was flashing from half court against the press and kind of saying everybody calm down.”
Both teams locked down defensively to open the afternoon, combining for 24 points over the first 14 minutes of block out, trapping pressure and quick handed hoops. But in the final minutes before intermission, the Scots got into open floor and transition, building an 11-point lead.
“We always look for Taylor; she has the best hands on the team and is great around the basket so if she’s open of course we’re going to get it to her,” MC’s Lailah Farmer said after picking up a pair of her game-high six assists to Smith during the run. “She also did a great job putting herself in those places where it was easy to get it to her.”
Lauren Burnett got the momentum swinging with a head-fake move to open the space for a 15-footer and opened the bank from the opposite side on the next possession. Smith followed with the next 10 points for MC (5-1) before Bond swished a trey from the corner to send the Scots to the locker room with a 31-20 edge.
“For a kid who came here billed as a standstill shooter, Lauren’s game has evolved in a big way. She now has the ability to drive, change pace and shoot a midrange jumper. She made some big shots there,” Travillian said of the Heritage product before spreading the praise. “Alex is one who never takes a bad shot and when she hits one it’s really big for us. She got a good one and it was huge. Just huge contributions everywhere on the roster.
“We’ve been a little casual in our defense so far, but we got after it and were taking pride in it. Emory has some very special players. We made some adjustments and made them work.”
Emory (8-1) came into the game averaging 78 a night while winning by an average of 28 in a streak that included Piedmont, LaGrange, Sewanee, Oglethorpe and Birmingham Southern, but the Lady Eagles were held to 27 percent shooting and were outrebounded 42-40 by MC in being held under 70 for only the second time. Savannah Morgan led Emory with 13 while Hannah Lilly and Danielle Landry added a dozen each,
“Defense has always been our biggest thing. It’s what we’re known for, holding people down to the 40's and 50's,” Smith said. “Coach (Amber) Lee and Coach (C.J.) Dake work us every day with one on ones and guards and posts and knowing personnel and seeing their weaknesses. Just knowing each individual player and how to guard each one of them.”
That defense held Emory to 10 points in the first 14 minutes Saturday and kept the Lady Eagles scoreless for the first six minutes of the second half. Emory’s full court pressure forced 19 turnovers from the Scots, but Maryville forced 16 of its own and the aggressiveness had MC shooting one-and-one with 10:31 to play. The Scots widened the margin from the foul line and led by as much as 21 before Morgan jacked in back-to-back 3-pointers.
“They have a lot of great guards and apply a lot of pressure to whoever is bringing the ball up the floor,” Farmer said. “We’re so versatile though that we can move people around and we have that luxury to adjust with our players.”
Bond, Burnett and freshman Mackenzie Puckett finished with eight apiece while Kiera Payne added 14 rebounds for the Scots, who get a break for finals this week before the team’s first-ever USA South contest hosting Meredith.
“Nobody ever wants to just sit and study for finals but as far as preparing for conference, this weekend was ideal for that,” Farmer said after the pair of victories in the quick turnaround contests set up to prepare MC for the USAC schedule.
Maryville won’t be getting new uniforms every weekend during USAC play in January, but the surprise did provide a lift Saturday as MC took a practice taste of the challenge.
“We were so excited. He told us they wouldn’t be here until Christmas Break and when we saw them, we were like we’re going to go out and do this,” Payne said afterward. “Just like the black uniforms against LaGrange last year, he surprised us then and we went out and played the best game of the season.”
But after the game she had, the staff may still be looking for one of those new jerseys.
“I don’t know if I’ll want to even take it off,” Smith said before disappearing into the locker room.