Malia Kency started Columbia County’s 2011-12 basketball season with a bang Friday night, leading Grovetown High School by scoring 22 points in the first half against Lakeside.
But Grovetown head coach Jaime Echols might have been even more impressed with her total of just one point after halftime of the Warriors’ 57-41 road victory.
“She came out in the second half wanting to get some other people involved, and she did that,” he said. “I thought she was an all-around player and just a great point guard tonight.”
Last season, as a freshman, Kency directed the offense for the Warriors during a 25-3 season in which they won 24 in a row. The team also made the state playoffs.
Last year’s squad relied heavily on standout senior forward Ebony Wells, now on scholarship at Florida State University.
Kency showed Friday that Grovetown will be just fine post-Wells.
She used a variety of tools – 3-pointers, runners in the lane, and drives to the basket – to amass her first-half total. She helped Grovetown to a 36-23 halftime advantage en route to the victory.
“It gives us a good look” at what to expect, Kency said. “I can see that this year’s going to be tough, but we have a good chance to do the same thing we did last year.”
Echols said he was impressed with his team’s ferocity on defense. The Warriors created numerous simultaneous possession situations when their defenders got their hands on the ball.
Savannah Mydell had 11 points and Rosalyan Talley added 10 for Lakeside.
Both teams have big shoes to fill this season after the graduation of key seniors.
While Grovetown is without Wells, Lakeside lost standout guards Tishal Turknett and Carolyn Hennecken.
Meanwhile, once overtime began in the boys game, Chris Hall just kept scoring.
The Lakeside senior thrilled the home crowd in the Panthers’ home-opener, scoring the first 11 points of overtime in a 55-44 win over Grovetown.
“I tried to bring my team back,” said Hall, who had a game-high 28 points. “I just kept my rhythm going. It just came to me.
“(My teammates) were looking for me, and it all came through.”
The Warriors finally got on the board in the extra period on C.J. Cooper’s jumper with less than a minute to go.
But by that point, Hall had already won it with his aggressive play. When he wasn’t scoring on layups after drives into the lane, he was drawing contact and going to the line.
The season-opener for both teams took on a low-scoring, defensive quality early, and it stayed that way throughout.
Grovetown used its athleticism and stifling defense to counter Lakeside’s early advantage and get out to a 22-19 halftime lead.
Until overtime, neither team led by more than six points. The game was tied 30-30 after three quarters and 42 apiece at the end of regulation.
Khallid Wright led the Warriors with 18 points.
The sophomore gave his team a one-point lead on a jumper with 1:33 left in regulation.
Hall responded with a short baseline jumper, then Cooper made one of two free throws with 35 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Mark Weidenaar had six points in his return to the court following knee surgery prior to last season.
But it was the timing of his points that was key.
With 3:27 left in regulation, he scored his first basket on a short jumper.
It gave Lakeside a one-point lead, and he extended it on the next possession with another jumper.
Later, nearing the end of overtime, Weidenaar finished off the win with a pair of free throws.