Hopewell girls still The Hunted

After winning last year’s I-MECK 4A conference tournament and earning the No. 1 seed for the state playoffs, the Hopewell girls basketball team entered this season with a huge target on the program.

After the Titans’ 57-51 come-from-behind victory at Hopewell on Jan. 14, coach Gary Richmond said they haven’t handled those high expectations well. His team (12-2, 5-1) struggled to get past North Meck, the league’s sixth-place team.

“It’s a different mentality being the favorite, and we are having trouble adjusting to it,” said Richmond. “We come out with the idea of, ‘We are the champs. Let’s see what you got.’ But with the exception of two games, we’ve waited to see how hard the other teams were going to play, instead of just jumping on them right then.”

The Titans needed a stout second half to defeat the Vikings for the sixth consecutive time, outscoring North Meck 33-16 in the final two quarters. Forward Sharee’ Boyd scored 12 of her 13 points in the second half, while junior center Tiera Burks chipped in 12 of her team-high 18 points. Forward Hannah Early added 15 points.

Richmond, however, would prefer to see such production earlier in games.

“I’ve been here four years, and when we were the underdogs, we would always scare the life out of (the Vikings), and they would come back to win in the fourth quarter,” said Richmond. “The last two years, they’ve been the underdogs, and it’s been just like this (Jan. 14) game. They jump all over us in the first half, and then I have to have a hissy-fit at halftime and (then our players) think, ‘Well, I can play hard for the next 16 minutes or run for an hour and a half next practice.’

“It’s effort and intensity. If we can play like that in the second half, why can’t we do it in the first half? Maybe I have to start fussing before the game starts instead of halftime.”

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