Turnovers doom Stanhope against Wildcats

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald

Stanhope Elmore’s Kelbi Johnson (14) makes a pass during the second half of Thursday’s loss to Benjamin Russell.

Benjamin Russell had four different players score in double figures Thursday night as the Wildcats improved to 16-5 on the season with a 67-32 win at Stanhope Elmore. Benjamin Russell used a 26-point third quarter to grab its fourth consecutive victory.

“We just wanted to work on us to get ready for the area play,” Benjamin Russell coach Latreisha Moon said. “I wanted to work on several different defensive looks. When we get ready for the area, we can’t just use one defense against Opelika or Russell County.”

Defense made a difference for the Wildcats. After leading by as many as 16 points in the first half, Stanhope Elmore cut the lead to 31-21 with 4:51 to go in the third quarter.

Benjamin Russell stepped up on defense, creating turnovers and difficult shot attempts for the Mustangs. The Wildcats went on a 34-7 over the course of 10:19 to run away with the win.

“I knew it was going to be hard to stop them in transition,” Stanhope coach Kelvin Stokes said. “When we miss the shot, they come at you fast. We were on our heels all night.”

Aaliyah Thomas was often leading the way for the Wildcats in transition. She had nine of her 13 points in the second half and had six assists during the team’s big run.

“They’ve got a great point guard,” Stokes said. “She pushes the ball really well and she makes a lot of things go for that team.”

Jaaliyah Caldwell led the Wildcats with 16 points and made all four of her shots from inside the paint. She scored 10 second chance points and finished 8 for 8 from the free-throw line.

“She was all over the glass tonight,” Moon said. “And from the free-throw line, she was perfect. I told her that she just needed to box out, get your rebound first and she’ll be fine.”

Rebounding has been one of Stanhope’s biggest strengths this season but the Wildcats dominated the glass on both ends of the court. Benjamin Russell held a 19-4 advantage on second-chance points.

“They play with three or four around the basket all the time,” Stokes said. “We needed to protect the paint but we could not get a lot of rebounds on the backside. They were getting inside and they just did a good job. We need to get stronger.”

Timira Lawson scored six of her 11 points in the opening quarter to help the Wildcats jump out to an early lead. Lawson’s second-half 3-pointer off an assist from Thomas was the only 3-pointer of the night for the Wildcats.

Bre Smith scored six points during Benjamin Russell’s big run and finished with 13. Brooklyn Edwards finished with eight points but missed all three of her free throw attempts.

“I think we still have a little bit of work to do,” Moon said. “(Tonight), we have to work on the things that will get us further down the road. But I was proud of them tonight and that’s what I told them. I think we’ll be fine but we have to keep working.”