More than halfway through the 2022-2023 high school basketball season, the Harmony Grove Hornets and the Lady Hornets continue to see serious improvements on the court and in the win column.
The Hornets (8-12; 2-7 in 3A-8 conference play) are coming off Tuesday's solid, comeback road victory, 64-63, over the Drew Central Pirates. The Hornets were down 62-56 with 1:14 left to go and they outscored the Pirates 8-1 during that span.
Sophomore guard Za'Kyus Smith, who was named the Camden News' male Player of the Week last week, scored 21 points, nine of them coming in the second quarter. Junior guards Caleb Johnson and Landon Garrett, respectively, scored 12 and 11 points each, and combined for 14 points in the fourth quarter.
This was the Hornets' second conference win of the season. Earlier this month, on Jan. 6, the Hornets defeated the DeWitt Dragons 64-58 for their first conference win of the season. That was also the first conference win for the Hornets since the spring of 2020, and their first since moving up to 3A play.
In their first season under head coach Eddie Potts, the Hornets have developed more energy and enthusiasm. Potts also has been able to utilize the high-level talent from Johnson, Garrett and Smith, the latter of whom is a strong contender for all-conference at the end of the season. The Hornets have turned into a team that can actually compete for conference and regional tournaments at the end of the regular season.
The Lady Hornets (7-14; 3-6 in conference play) are also continuining to see progress this season. The girls' team started the season with some solid non-conference wins over Hampton twice and Junction City before facing serious title contenders in tournaments.
The Lady Hornets are 2-2 in their last four games, with a 49-36 home win on Jan. 13 over Smackover and a dominant 50-15 road win over the Dollarway Cardinals on Jan. 20 under their belts.
In the win over Smackover, the Lady Buckaroos' defense focused on suppressing Lady Hornets sophomore guard Eliza Taylor as much as possible, as she can score in many angles, but it wasn't enough.
With Taylor double-teamed often, the Lady Hornets needed other players to step up, and several did just that. Sophomore guard Aria Nipp led Harmony Grove in the Smackover game with 11 points accounted for, with eight coming at the free-throw line. Senior point guard Alivia Lindsey, who is the team's floor general and a pass first guard, took matters into her own hands as well by scoring eight points, six of them coming at the free-throw line.
In the win over the Cardinals last Friday, the leading scorer for the Lady Hornets was senior forward Kailee Riggs with 19 points. She made four three-pointers in the game. Nipp scored ninepoints that game, followed by Taylor and senior forward Ta'Khia Williams with seven points each.
This team has developed a solid "next player up" mentality and likes to distribute the all over the court. Nipp has been one of the leading offensive playmakers, with Taylor opposing teams' focus.
Second-year head coach Heather Johnson has already eclipsed last year's results from the Lady Hornets at 5-16 (1-11 in conference play) as the team plays with purpose and looks to win every possession. The Lady Hornets are composed of veteran seniors who have been looking to win for a while and high-voltage sophomores, who have a chance to be all-state players before their careers are over.
The Lady Hornets are set to go on the road this Friday night as they take on the Lakeside Lady Beavers (10-8; 6-2) while the Hornets will also travel to take on the Beavers (10-16; 4-5).