John Gibson admits he programmed himself to be more patient this season. When you start three freshmen and a sophomore, as the Baylor girls' coach does, patience is a requirement.
Gibson's young Lady Red Raiders rewarded him Thursday with a come-from-behind 44-42 win over East Hamilton in the first round of the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament at Chattanooga State.
"The key today was we didn't quit," said Gibson, whose team trailed by eight after one period and by as many as 10 in the second half. "We had a ton of looks during the game, but we just couldn't finish. When we started finishing, like Jaz Simpkins did inside, we did well. Kaleigh Clemons made some big plays and our senior, Marci Carter, set the tone as she always does."
An 8-0 East Hamilton run, highlighted by two Jessica Caudle 3-pointers, pushed the Lady Hurricanes' lead to double digits with 6:45 to play. Baylor freshman point guard Clemons then scored 10 points during a 16-4 surge, including a confident 3-pointer that tied the game at 40 with 3:05 to play.
Simpkins then chased down a loose ball and hit a layup to give Baylor the lead with 1:38 left. The score was tied at 42 when Simpkins was fouled after going hard to the basket with 1.7 seconds remaining. She made both free throws and Clemons sealed the win with a steal of the inbounds pass.
"When my teammates are looking at me to make a play, it's a lot of pressure for a freshman, but I think I handled it well," said Clemons, who scored a game-high 19 points. "I just felt confident and I wanted to be that leader for my team down the stretch."
Simpkins added 12 points for Baylor (5-7), while Caudle topped East Hamilton (5-6) with 17.