By Jim McElhatton (Photo/Sawyer McElhatton)
Down 5-0 early on Saturday against defending Patriot District champion T.C. Williams, Hayfield basketball coach Rudy Coffield called a quick timeout.
A few minutes later, down 11-0, he called another timeout, hoping to reinvigorate his squad. But T.C. stole the ball — and Hayfield’s thunder — on the next play and hit a 3-pointer to go up 14-0.
On a night when the Lady Titans turned in their most dominating performance of the season, visiting Hayfield had no answer. The Lady Hawks didn't score until nearly the end of the first quarter.
There were few bright spots for Hayfield, and by the night’s end, T.C. had coasted to a 78-18 win.
After the dominating performance, it was difficult to see how T.C. was still — with the win — only a .500 team, going 5-5 for the season and 1-1 in conference action.
Despite a difficult start to the season, T.C. coach Kesha Walton and her players are upbeat.
"Our motto is 2014 is a new beginning," Walton said after the game. "It's time for us to grow, time for us to gel and time for us to mature."
Tykera Carter led the Titans with 23 points, and three of her teammates also put up double figures: Angie Scheldler scored 18, Grace Peterson added 16 and Rejoice Spivey hit a pair of 3-pointers, finishing with 10 points.
But the Titans didn’t just heat things up on offense. Their stifling defense set the tone early.
On most possessions, Hayfield struggled to penetrate the lane. And when they did, they found Peterson waiting for them, ready to swat the ball away.
Twice in the opening minutes, T.C. hustled and forced jump balls. On one play, Carter nearly stole the ball, but the referee called a jump ball that ended with T.C. once again in possession.
On the next play, Spivey confused a defender with a brutal crossover move, finding a wide-open Peterson under the basket. The startling maneuver prompted yet another Hayfield timeout.
"I've been in this region for 17 years, and they're always athletic, no ifs, ands or buts about it, so we knew that coming in," said Coffield. "We knew they're experienced, with a bunch of seniors, and we're playing with a bunch of freshmen, so you do the math.”
"This is a good learning experience. They've got to understand that this is the type of basketball we're going to be facing every night."
While the 60-point victory was impressive, a much closer game about a week earlier was T.C.'s biggest win of the season. Ranked sixth in an eight-team holiday tournament in South Carolina, the Titans opened play with a 54-52 upset over highly ranked Providence Day.
The victory gave the Titans a big shot of confidence — and a fourth-place showing in the tournament. But with a record of 4-5 after two subsequent losses, T.C. was anxious to get back on the court again against Hayfield, said Walton.
"The girls came out with a lot energy," Walton said. "We've spoken a lot about bringing more energy and hustle. We have offensive weapons, but we need to make defense our No. 1 offense."
Walton said the team has been building chemistry off the court, too. Quietly and without fanfare, players adopted a local family in need and purchased items on their Christmas list over the holidays.
"It's about building chemistry, but it's also about giving back," said Walton.