In the third round of the 2023 2A state playoffs, St. Pauls came within two points of knocking off state runner-up Seaforth.
The Bulldogs had another shot for the win in the Hawks season opener on Nov. 20, but at the final buzzer, it wasn’t close.
Behind junior guard Gabby White’s career night and a dominant team defensive effort, Seaforth’s girls basketball team opened the new season with a 62-26 rout over St. Pauls.
White tied her career-high of 26 points while the Hawks’ defense allowed St. Pauls to shoot only 21 percent from the floor.
“It feels good,” Seaforth head coach Charles Byrd said. “We’ve been pushing the girls really hard the last couple of weeks, and I think there was a big carry over in the game today.”
White got things started early for the Hawks, scoring 10 of their 21 points in the first quarter. She was the focal point of the offense, finding her spots while also finding open teammates for assists.
She finished the first half with 17 points and three assists.
“(St. Pauls) was trying to be overly aggressive,” White said. “They were trying to play me up high which gave me a lane to drive…Also on the outside shot, they were really jumpy, so I think that was allowing me to get my shot off smoothly.”
Defensively, the task was to slow down St. Pauls’ own playmaker, Jashontae Harris. Harris, who’s averaging just over 20 points a game this season, gave the Hawks trouble in last year’s meeting.
This time around, Seaforth held her to just 10 points on a 17 percent shooting clip. Aggressive ball pressure in the 2-3 zone and a mix-up of presses made it difficult for any of St. Pauls’ players to get going offensively.
“The game plan going into this game was to find (Harris) and try to make sure we kept everything in front of us,” Byrd said. “Make sure we contest all shots, force their team to shoot contested twos.”
On top of making shots difficult, Seaforth created a plethora of turnovers that also produced quick offense. White and sophomores Mia Moore and Katie Leonard all had at least two steals, contributing to a team total of 10.
St. Pauls ended up turning the ball over 15 times.
“(We) just stayed to our principles,” White said. “(We knew) they were going to take their shots, draw fouls and split the defense, but we just have to play our game. The steals will come.”
Leonard and junior guard Peyton Collins also made significant contributions offensively, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Looking at how both teams returned key players from last season, the game’s result is just an indicator of how Seaforth is following its team motto of getting “one percent better.”
Even though the team made a state title appearance last year, Byrd said the emphasis this past offseason was to get stronger, whether that’s with finishing through contact or grabbing contested rebounds.
Based on this result, getting stronger may also mean beating quality opponents in similar fashion as inferior ones.
“This is a good team win for us,” White said.