It’s not often one player, regardless of sport, alters their opponent’s entire defensive identity mid-game.

Stanhope Elmore senior guard Kelbi Johnson did just that Tuesday.

Draining six 3-pointers as part of a 20-point performance that accounted for half of the Mustangs’ scoring, Johnson and the defense of forwards Jacey Haynes and Summer Hicks guided Stanhope to a 40-30 win in area play against Benjamin Russell.

“Tough win,” Stanhope coach Kelvin Stokes said. “Some games are not going to be beautiful, not going to be pretty. But when you’re on the road, it’s an area game, you’ll take a one-point win, it doesn’t matter.”

Benjamin Russell typically runs a 3-2 zone — that’s three defenders on the back line and two up front — against opponents to mitigate interior scoring. That appeared especially important against Haynes and Hicks, both of whom stand taller than any player on the Wildcats’ roster.

By the fourth quarter they had to shift to a box-and-one, with four defenders playing a 2-2 zone in the shape of a box around the paint and star guard Tyliciya Calhoun sticking to Johnson’s hip, taking away her airspace, all because of the latter’s shooting performance.

Still, the one time Johnson gained separation from Calhoun in the fourth quarter, she hit nothing but nylon on another triple from the right wing.

“I really had to use my feet more instead of just catch-and-shoot,” Johnson said. “I have to V-cut, get open. I have to use more of my basketball IQ.”

No other player in Tuesday’s tilt accounted for more than 11 points, that being Stanhope guard Ariel Gilchrist. Calhoun led the way for Benjamin Russell with eight.

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The Wildcats kept the contest close in a slow-paced first half, trailing just 17-13 at intermission. Johnson opened a meager 2-for-7 behind the arc.

She came out in the third quarter and sank her next three 3-point attempts, and with the help of another make from distance via Gilchrist, the four-point halftime advantage ballooned to 13 by the end of the penultimate period.

“I knew I had to keep shooting for me to make it,” Johnson said. “You’re not going to make a shot you don’t take. And I knew I had to put more arc on the ball, get more touch on it, because their goals are a little different. Every goal is a little different. I just had to adjust, just keep shooting.”

With Haynes and Hicks swatting anything that came within shouting distance of the basket, it became hard for Benjamin Russell to make up much ground.

Haynes has made a habit of that all season. Her nine blocks per game lead the entire country, per Maxpreps. She’s added more than 17 rebounds per game.

Hicks contributes six blocks of her own per game.

“We’re so fortunate that we do have two bigs that alter the paint,” Stokes said. “In girls basketball, everybody wants to attack the paint. If you’ve got 3-point shooters, which we do, it’s always good. But they’re just a major staple to our defense, because if we get beat on the perimeter, they feed them to our bigs.”

Despite the loss, the Wildcats did get a chance to celebrate their seniors Tuesday before the contest with their senior night.

Many of Benjamin Russell’s best players, some of them longtime contributors to the program, will graduate after this season. The list includes Calhoun, Taniya Davis, JaNiya Martin and Naskia Russell.

Stanhope’s season marches forward with a matchup against Wetumpka Saturday. Benjamin Russell hits the road to take on Wetumpka two days prior.