Hempfield returns from covid-caused layoff, routs Canon-McMillan

Thursday, February 4, 2021 | 10:19 PM

Sophomore Brooke McCoy had one of those nights where everything she tossed up seemed to go in.

The thing is, like her teammates, the 5-foot-9 guard from Hempfield had not played a game since Jan. 11 as the Lady Spartans sat through a 10-day quarantine because a team member tested positive for covid-19.

One might have expected fatigue and rust.

Instead, McCoy and Hempfield showed the opposite, energy and sharpness, as they took care of Canon-McMillan — the same team they opened the season against — 61-47 on Thursday night in a Section 2-6A game.

“We weren’t all out of breath,” McCoy said. “We were pumped to be playing. We were excited to play. We came ready to play.”

McCoy poured in 30 points, making 7 of 10 shots, including 4-of-4 3-pointers, and added five rebounds and three steals as the Lady Spartans improved to 1-1 overall and in section. She scored 14 in the first quarter.

“This was a real breakout game for Brooke,” Hempfield coach Tom Brush said. “She shot lights out.”

Senior Emma Hoffner also impressed in her return to the court, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. She made three 3-pointers on senior night.

Steals aren’t always good in softball for Hoffner, who is a standout catcher and does not give up many. Her three steals on the basketball court helped the Spartans’ defensive effort.

The Spartans were strong on the boards, often outrebounding taller players and getting position around the rim. They also finished in transition.

“I am really happy with how the girls played,” Brush said. “This is our first game in about a month, and we only had five days of practice since our shutdown. You don’t really know what to expect with conditioning and things like that, but the girls played well, especially on defense.”

The result paled in comparison to the teams’ earlier meeting in Washington County when the Big Macs won, 37-36 — perhaps a nod to the improvements Hempfield made during a 10-day shutdown because of covid-19 contact tracing.

Hempfield was out of commission for about two weeks and returned to practice last Saturday.

Canon-McMillan (1-6, 1-4) only led once, at 4-3, and stayed within single digits until the tide-turning third quarter.

Hempfield dominated the third to pull away from the Big Macs, outscoring them 20-3, limiting the visitors to one field goal over a 10-minute stretch.

“This is how we should play,” Brush said.

All told, a 20-0 scoring run turned a 31-23 game on its ear. McCoy hit two 3s and Hoffner and junior Alexis Hainesworth hit one each, and McCoy made two driving layups off steals during the decisive stretch.

Late in the third, it was a 28-point game.

“We came more mentally prepared to play this time,” McCoy said.

“We all just played better as a team tonight. We weren’t just shooting 3s, we were getting it inside, too, so that was really good.”

Canon-McMillan scored 22 in the fourth, mostly with Hempfield’s starters out of the game.

“The biggest thing … now more than ever, we realize every single game matters,” Hoffner said. “It’s really hard to have it keep happening to you. We were grateful to be on the floor, and that’s where our energy came from. It felt so good to get back out there.”

McCoy was the pace-setter for the Lady Spartans as she outscored the Big Macs in the first quarter, 14-13. She hit a pair of 3s and her short jumper gave Hempfield a 19-11 advantage.

Freshman Sarah Podkul came off the bench and made a 3 to give the Spartans a 26-17 lead in the second quarter.

Hempfield made nine 3-pointers.

Hoffner’s steal-and-score made it 28-19, and another 3 from McCoy stretched it to double figures (31-20) just before the half.

“Emma is so strong and determined,” Brush said. “She’s a forward, and she’s as big as some of the guards we see.”

Said Hoffner: “We let them have the quick putbacks when we played them before. So instead we wanted that to be us tonight. We all rebounded really well.”

Junior Stellanie Loutsion led Canon-McMillan with 18 points, nine in the fourth, senior Kelsey Wandera added 11 and sophomore Tori Wesolowski chipped in eight.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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