Stanhope girls

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Stanhope Elmore’s Mary Birmingham (30) looks to make a pass against the full court pressure from Park Crossing’s Ashanti Wood.

Exactly one month before Monday’s matchup with Park Crossing, the Stanhope Elmore girls basketball team suffered its biggest defeat of the season at the hands of the Thunderbirds. The Mustangs wanted to give a better showing in the second meeting and they showed up ready to play.

After trailing by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, Stanhope bounced back to cut the deficit to just one point early in the second. However, Park Crossing’s pace and pressure proved to be too much as the Thunderbirds went on to win 73-43, ending the game on a 25-3 run.

“The score doesn’t look like how the game went,” Stanhope Elmore coach Kelvin Stokes said. “I only played six or seven girls (Monday night) and that took a toll on us late in the game a little bit. There was a reason I did that though because we were in a rhythm early and we played together as a unit.”

Stanhope Elmore (5-6) turned the ball over more than 30 times in the first meeting with Park Crossing but the Mustangs had better control Monday night. However, the turnovers eventually came in spurts, allowing the Thunderbirds to go on big scoring runs to stay in control.

The Mustangs finished with 19 turnovers which turned into 26 points for Park Crossing. After cutting the lead to 48-40 with 3:59 to go in the third quarter, Stanhope turned the ball over on five of its next seven possessions, allowing the Thunderbirds to push the lead to 20 points by the end of the frame.

“Turnovers got us late in the game,” Stokes said. “If we can start taking care of the ball in those situations, we’re going to be OK. We’re not there yet but we’re getting there.”

Stokes said he knew Park Crossing’s pace could be a problem but his girls kept up with it for the first 2 ½ quarters. However, the Mustangs did not have the stamina to keep it up the whole game and Park Crossing took advantage of that.

While some coaches want to slow the game down to control the tempo at a different pace, Stokes felt like that would not have worked for the Mustangs.

“One thing about slowing down against them, they are just going to get more aggressive,” Stokes said. “If we slow down, our passes get slower and everything gets slower. We have to match that intensity.”

Kaleiah Hollis finished with 12 points for the Mustangs, all of them coming in the first half. She also contributed eight rebounds and two blocks. Brooke Burkett chipped in 12 points as well.

While Stokes said the Mustangs did not plan to be on the losing end, there were still plenty of positives to take from the first half. He said he wants his team to focus on improvements it has made and how much it showed in the difference between the two losses to Park Crossing.

“That has to be a teachable moment,” Stokes said. “A loss is a loss whether you lose by one or you lose by 30 but I tell them all of the time that we don’t lose; we learn. We have to learn from that.”

Stanhope Elmore had a quick turnaround as it hosted Selma Tuesday night. The Mustangs were still searching for their first Class 6A Area 5 victory but Stokes said they are still in the process of preparing for the end of the season and each game is helping them make strides before the postseason.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.