Elmore keys H-L’s thumping of Tigers

BASCOM — It was not the best of shooting nights for Hopewell-Loudon, but when you consistently have the best player on the floor in every game, things go a little easier.

MaKayla Elmore took over in the second quarter and rode the momentum to a huge night, lifting the Chieftains to a 52-24 Blanchard Valley Conference win over North Baltimore.

“That is who we go to,” Hopewell-Loudon coach Bob Gase said. “We were not shooting well from the outside tonight. At halftime, I told them I wanted it inside.”

The sophomore tallied a huge double-double of 22 points and 18 rebounds. She also scored 11 straight of Hopewell-Loudon’s points over a 10:57 span of game.

“We were patient for the most part,” Gase said. “Once you keep putting it back inside, the outside opens up a little bit.”

It was actually Hope Kreais who got the Chieftains (16-4, 7-3 BVC) going early. She scored the first two buckets of the game before Elmore scored down low. Later, a layup from Kreais gave H-L a 10-4 lead. Elmore scored off one of North Baltimore’s 15 turnovers for an eight-point lead after one quarter.

“When Hope got hers, they were doubling MaKayla real hard,” Gase said. “MaKayla is finding the open person more now. When she feels the pressure, then she gets rid of it.”

The surge from Elmore continued in the second quarter. Her steal and layup more than three minutes into the quarter were the first points of the period. She later split two free throws before Leah Lee banked in a 3-pointer for the Tigers (12-8, 6-4) — their first points in 8:33.

Elmore began to assert herself even more, kicking up the aggressiveness as the half wore on. She got to the line six times — making four free throws — while also dropping in a short shot as time expired in the half, giving Hopewell-Loudon a 21-10 lead at halftime.

“I would not say us defending (Elmore) was successful,” North Baltimore coach Cody Pelton said. “She almost outscored us. We tried to body her up and keep somebody in front of her so she could not catch the basketball. She is just bigger and stronger than everybody else. There is only so much you can do.”

In the third quarter, a steal and score by Kenzie Coleman was the first points for anyone other than Elmore and Kreais. Olivia Zender got into the scoring when she made two free throws for a 25-10 lead.

Later, Elmore scored to extend the lead to 27-15 then assisted on Kreais’ fourth and final bucket. Elmore added two free throws, a foul line jumper, and Zender hit a 3 to give Hopewell-Loudon a 36-17 lead after three quarters.

“We started with a box-and-one defense on (Elmore),” Pelton said. “If we could get a couple rebounds and not turn the ball over so quickly, I think we could have stayed with it.”

Elmore assisted on a shot by Coleman before Coleman nailed a 3 for the Chieftains’ biggest lead at 41-21. The defense for Hopewell-Loudon was key all night, and the Chieftains even finished the game on an 11-1 run over the final 4:46.

“There is always room for improvement,” Gase said. “We are getting better every time. Just a little bit every time. Hope has those six early points — now what is the defense going to do? That helps MaKayla.”

A bright spot for North Baltimore was freshman Grace Hagemyer, who battled Elmore down low for the majority of the game and even pulled down 16 rebounds herself.

“Grace is a taller one,” Pelton said. “She needs to get a little stronger. She is a terrific player and a great athlete.”

Zender tallied 10 points while Kreais had eight. Hopewell-Loudon committed just five turnovers through three quarters.

“Our turnovers with the first group is way down the last four or five games,” Gase said. “I think Olivia only has one turnover in each of the last two games. When your point guard only has one turnover, that helps.”

North Baltimore made just 6 of 39 shots and 10 of 22 free throws. Tigers point guard Alivia Light even made her first eight free throws, finishing with a team-high 10 points.

The night was highlighted by a sea of yellow, honoring the late Kenadee Siebenaller, who passed away in September after a car accident. Thursday would have been Siebenaller’s 19th birthday.

“Kenadee is just a special person,” Gase said. “She would be here right now if she was alive. She was supposed to come and be a coach. For me, Kenadee is just extra special and she always will be. A coach and their point guard have that connection.”