After Atholton’s 61-38 loss to Centennial on Dec. 6, junior forward Kalere Caldwell said it was time to get back to basics. While racking up statistics and wins are important, Caldwell said she needed to first focus on having more fun on the court.
Everything seemed to come together Wednesday night, as Caldwell tallied 16 points and eight rebounds in the Raiders’ 52-38 victory over visiting Long Reach.
“I took some pressure off myself,” she said. “Sometimes I just forget to have fun.”
Along with Caldwell, Atholton (1-1) got help from senior guards Margaret Tatum (15) and Becca Weinberg (12), both of whom scored in double figures.
“I thought it was a great team effort, with a lot of different people stepping up,” said Atholton coach Julia Reynold after the game. “Long Reach is a very talented team, and they were going to stay in the game no matter what the score was. We needed some composure to hold on.”
The Lightning (0-2, 1-2) were led offensively by senior point guard Imani Sanders, who had nine points and five assists in the losing effort.
“I just think they outworked us all night,” said Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield. “We didn’t box out well tonight, and defensively we just didn’t execute. A lot of it boiled down to effort, and that is something we have to work on.”
Atholton’s control on the boards was apparent early in the contest. Though Long Reach seemed to have a consistent press forcing the Raiders into a few hurried passes, the defense would quickly break down, especially under the net.
Sage Mayhew led the Raiders in rebounds with 14, while Chelsea Mitchell collected seven boards of her own.
“In practice, we specifically worked on rebounds because we were not that great last game,” said Mayhew. “I think we’ve greatly improved.”
In the first quarter, nearly three minutes passed before the scoreboard lit up. It was Long Reach that went ahead first, holding a 6-4 advantage — the Lightning’s only lead of the game — before the Raiders’ offense got moving.
Then, a quick six-point unanswered scoring flare put Atholton in the lead.
Tatum opened the second quarter with a big shot from the perimeter, putting the Raiders up by nine.
Long Reach did cut its deficit to a 21-21 tie less than three minutes before intermission, but it was Weinberg hitting her second 3-pointer of the quarter that finally pulled the Raiders ahead again — a lead they would fail to surrender for the remainder of the game.
In the second half, the Lightning mostly traded scoring chances with the Raiders. Any opportunities to dig out of the hole were quickly spoiled by what Cofield said were inconvenient mistakes.
Added the Long Reach coach: “We could never get that play to get in position to go ahead. Untimely fouls or untimely turnovers are just momentum-breakers. Those things just become insurmountable.”
By the fourth quarter, the Raiders were firmly in control on both sides of the ball, holding the Lightning to just six additional points before the final whistle blew.
Reynold said her team still has a lot to improve upon as it prepares for a difficult stretch of games this week.
“I think we are learning,” she said. “Last year, we had a lot of close games. We had some time to mature and pay attention to the game, knowing the difference between taking our time and rushing.”
Both teams will be back in action on Thursday. The Raiders will travel to Howard, while the Lightning will welcome Hammond.