Junior post Stanley Valentine scored 21 of his 28 points in the first half while the Bulldogs built a 47-24 lead, including an impressive fast-break dunk, and they sputtered from there for a 67-51 Watauga Valley Conference win at University High.
Hampton (7-0, 20-2) rode the agile 6-foot-2 Valentine early. He scored on stick-backs, turnaround banks on the blocks, one-dribble mid-range jumpers and a 17-footer at the top of the key while playing what Hampton coach Ned Smith described as his best half. He also finished the game with 10 rebounds.
“Valentine came to play tonight,” UH coach Justin Penley said. “He played really well.”
Point guard Cody McClain frequently found Valentine. Among his nine assists was a textbook one-handed wrap-around post entry from the right wing.
“Cody and the rest of the guys, they saw that I was feeling it,” Valentine said. “So ... they were just all looking for me. ... We played pretty good in that first half and then the second half we came out and just messed it up, just sort of tried to give it away. ...
“That second half isn’t us. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.”
McClain (eight points, five rebounds, three steals) made a difficult 40-foot pass to Valentine for a transition basket look easy on the opening possession, and he ended the half beating the buzzer with a long 3-pointer after utilizing a ball screen to get free on the right wing.
“McClain’s really an impressive player,” Penley said. “He’s so unselfish ... that he went from being a focal point to now being a distributor. He’s happy doing that. He has a high basketball IQ. And he’s a great passer and a great shooter.”
Hampton pressured UH into turnovers, attacked the offensive boards and shot well from the perimeter in what seemed like a clinic in the first half. Sophomore wing Coby Jones scored eight of his 12 points in the first half. He made two 3-pointers, as did Cheyenne Camillo.
“The whole team took the open look and went to the glass,” Smith said. “We got a lot of put-backs and played together. Cody runs the offense really well. ... The second half we didn’t come out to play. … There’s about six minutes there in the third quarter we didn’t (compete) and they made some big shots.”
Hampton scored 42 points in the third quarter against Unaka on Thursday, and Penley must have wondered what was in store at intermission. But UH outscored the Bulldogs 27-20 in the second half.
Senior guard Marcus Taylor scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half, including the Junior Bucs’ first seven points of the fourth quarter. His difficult 18-foot fadeaway in the right corner cut Hampton’s advantage to 59-46 with 4:45 remaining. But Valentine answered with an inside basket and UH was never as close as 13 again.
Taylor’s baskets included two step-back 3-pointers, a crowd-pleasing drive that began with him splitting a trap, a finger-roll after a baseline drive and back-cut for a lay-in on a high-post pass from Brady Horton.
“Marcus is probably one of the best players in the whole area,” Valentine said. “He’s a problem for most players.”
Hampton would present problems for any area team, regardless of classification.
“Hampton might be as good as anybody around here,” said Penley, who qualified it in adding that teams such as Dobyns-Bennett, Tennessee High and Science Hill probably have more depth and/or size. “The thing that’s most encouraging to me is that our kids continued to compete in the second half. They battled and they whittled that lead down.
“But there are no moral victories. We’ve got to play better early. That was disappointing that we just did not value the ball in the first half and we did not rebound it with tenacity. ... We rebounded the ball in the second half.”
UH (2-4, 9-12) had all of its players available for the first time in more than a month. Senior shooting guard Joseph Phillips (hand) returned last week and sophomore point guard Luke Willoughby made his return Friday from an ankle injury he suffered Dec. 20.
Impressive in how quickly he catches and releases, Phillips made five treys while matching Taylor’s 19 points. Willoughby had four assists, including two interior passes after dribble penetration, and helped alleviate some of Hampton’s pressure in the second half.
“I think we have a chance to be pretty good (at tournament time),” Penley said.
Of course, Hampton’s postseason prospects are especially intriguing, particularly if it plays the way it did in the first half Friday.
Hampton (girls) 61
University High 39
Monica Olvera made her first five 3-point attempts and Hampton finished 9-of-17 from behind the arc in the Watauga Valley Conference victory.
Olvera’s first three treys came from the corner for the Lady Bulldogs (4-3, 15-9), whose ball movement led to scores on numerous possessions without any dribbling. Olvera made four treys in the first quarter while helping Hampton open on a 20-3 run.
“We do a lot of shooting in practice and we sort of emphasized early today that the baseline area would be open because they had three out front in a 3-2 zone,” Hampton coach Bud Hazelwood said. “We shot it well.”
Kim Swearingen had 14 points and three assists for Hampton. Tatum Street scored 10.
Olvera also had three assists, and Alexis Bowers had three points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Kaitlin Irick and Swearingen each made two treys. Alexis Grubbs had seven points and five rebounds.
Taylor Treadway made four 3-pointers en route to 16 points for the Junior Lady Bucs. She hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the first half.
“We knew Treadway’s dangerous,” Hazelwood said. “We didn’t find her the first half and I held up a big sign at halftime saying, ‘What’s this number? Five. That’s the one that’s killing us.’”
Lexi Crouthers and Brie Nikolous scored eight points apiece for University High (0-6, 7-10).