Just a few months into his tenure as the Chestatee High girls basketball coach, Chris Guthrie isn’t necessarily surprised his players are still searching for an offensive identity.
He was, however, encouraged by what he saw Tuesday night in Gainesville.
The Lady War Eagles got all they could handle from a short-handed but plucky Blessed Trinity squad and emerged with a 59-46 win, their first Region 7-4A victory of the season. Chestatee (8-10, 1-2 region) led by just three points early in the fourth quarter before closing on a 16-6 run.
“It was big for us,” Guthrie said. “We’re still struggling a bit to find our identity offensively, and part of that is me being brand new. But we’re still getting good, consistent effort from nine or 10 players every time we step on the court. We’re heading in a positive direction.”
Three Lady War Eagles scored in double figures, led by sophomore Maggie McNair with 15. Junior forward Callyssa Tyner narrowly missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds, while senior guard Lindsey Caudell recorded 11 points and seven boards.
With only eight players listed on their roster and just seven available Tuesday, the Lady Titans (4-12, 0-2) relied heavily on junior guard Katie Hynekamp and sophomore forward Erin Hynekamp.
The pair produced all but 12 of Blessed Trinity’s points, with Erin Hynekamp totaling a game-high 20. Fourteen of those came in the first half to help the Lady Titans erase an early 8-2 deficit.
“She’s exclusively left-handed, so we played a triangle-and-two on her and focused on keeping her from going to her left,” Guthrie said. “She couldn’t really hurt us if we forced her to go right, and we obviously didn’t do a good job of that in the first half.”
Yet Chestatee still led 33-24 at the break, thanks in part to its quick start. Six different Lady War Eagles scored the team’s first six buckets, with as many different players assisting.
Blessed Trinity knotted the game at 18-all midway through the second quarter before Caudell and Tyner each completed 3-point plays. The Hynekamps had all their team’s points until freshman guard Jourdyn Crowl drained a jumper with 1:36 left until halftime.
The Lady War Eagles stretched their lead to 12 in the third quarter, during which they held Erin Hynekamp (eight rebounds) scoreless. Caudell hit three straight baskets to close the period before the Lady Titans came storming back.
Back-to-back turnovers allowed Blessed Trinity to pull within 43-40, and Katie Hynekamp scored six of her 14 points early in the final quarter.
But McNair had a critical three-point play to give Chestatee some breathing room, and Tyner notched seven points and several key rebounds down the stretch. The Lady War Eagles cleaned up their ball movement late in the quarter and hit enough free throws to seal the win.
“It came down to how we executed versus their pressure,” Guthrie said. “When it came down to crunch time, we found the open people for good shots or were able to run some clock.”
The final result left Guthrie pleased with where his team is heading, and Chestatee can continue its upward trajectory when it hosts region foe West Hall (10-7, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
West Hall edged the Lady War Eagles, 46-42, in their first-round Lanierland game Dec. 28, and Guthrie is confident his players have what it takes to win in the teams’ first region meeting.
“I feel like we’re evenly matched,” the first-year coach said. “We have to limit (Lady Spartans guard) Anna McKendree because she’s really what makes them go. Down the stretch in our first game, they had some role players that made some big shots as we were closing out on them. So we’ll have to be solid on everybody else, too.”
BLESSED TRINITY BOYS 59, CHESTATEE 35: Senior guard Cooper Wilson nailed four 3-pointers, including a heave beyond half-court that banked off the backboard as the first-half buzzer sounded, as part of a 16-point outing for the War Eagles.
Wilson’s shot put Chestatee (4-14, 0-3 Region 7-4A) down just 33-24 at halftime, but the Titans (10-5, 2-0 region) erupted on a 14-3 run out of the break. The War Eagles trailed by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Blessed Trinity junior Andy Swade notched a game-high 21 points, followed by teammate Ben Shappard with 19. CJ Abrams provided another 10 points for the Titans.
Chestatee continues its region schedule against West Hall (7-9, 0-2) at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Gainesville. The War Eagles lost to the Spartans, 74-68, in the second round of Lanierland on Dec. 29.