After a delay to the start of the season, the Southwest Mississippi Community College women tipped off Monday night at home against Hinds. And even though they were without two key players in sophomores Daisy Wansley and Taylor Ben, the Bears got big performances from another pair of second-year players in Mikayla Etienne and Shylia McGee and picked up an 81-63 win over the Bulldogs.
SMCC head coach Brent Harris was happy to get the win but said that there were times when his team underachieved.
“We had some scrimmages (before), but I thought that it looked like Game 1 at times, the ball stuck a bit,” he said. “I thought that we could have made one more pass a couple of times and made life easier on ourselves offensively. Defensively, we like to change defenses and a couple of them didn’t work for us tonight. We didn’t have the right energy. But it is Game 1. We have to come in and watch some film and analyze and get better.”
After the visitors struck first with a quick basket, the Bears (1-0, 1-0 MACCC South) answered right back with a 6-0 run, with half of the scoring coming from Jade Myles. Towards the end of the quarter, Analya White made her presence known with the final 7 points of the period for the Bears, giving them a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, SMCC quickly jumped ahead by double-digits following a pair of free throws from Etienne. For the remainder of the first half, the Bears maintained a double-digit lead using a combination of a solid defense and efficient scoring from Etienne and McGee.
The Bears got off to another strong start in the second half with an 8-5 run extending its lead to as much as 17 points. At about the 2:30 mark in the third quarter, a lack of consistency on defense hurt SMCC as Hinds began to chip away.
The Bulldogs put together a 6-0 run to close out the quarter and kicked off the fourth with another field goal pulling within 7 at 58-51. But that would be the closest that Hinds would get for the remainder of the game.
Down the stretch, the Bears got plenty of scoring from the trio of Etienne, McGee and White to close out the contest.
McGee led the Bears with a game-high 24 points. White had 19 points and Etienne 18.
Having Etienne back in the lineup after she missed all of last season with an injury was not only a big plus for SMCC as a whole but especially for McGee, who now can go back to playing her natural position.
“It feels good because it pushes me back from the one (point guard) and lets me play where I am supposed to be playing at,” McGee said. “With Mikayla, it feels good to have a true point guard.”
Etienne’s stellar play was reminiscent of Jolie Williams, a key starter for the Bears last season in who constantly flashed her skills on offense including the ability to hit big-time shots from 3-point range.
“‘Kay-Kay’ (Etienne) was playing extremely well for us last year, maybe out-playing Jolie before she got hurt, and it was a big blow for us because we would have been pretty tough with her in the fold last year,” Harris said. “I am happy for her, she took her rehab serious and made the trainers her friends. She owned everything.
“I am glad to see her have some success tonight. And Shylia, she is a scorer.”