An unlikely hero emerged at the right time from Marshfield’s bench Monday night.
Junior Taylor Stephens hit a pair of key 3-pointers that helped the Lady Jays bounce back and score a 56-44 victory over visiting Hollister.
Stephens hadn’t recorded a point all year entering the evening, and though she had attempted shots, she described her previous looks as “not very good ones” like the two against the Lady Tigers. Her consecutive triples came as part of a 14-0 run that began with Marshfield down nine near the end of the third quarter and spanned into the fourth for the team’s first lead of the game.
“It was very nerve-racking,” said Stephens, who was also temporarily tasked with guarding Hollister star junior Kendrick Bailey. “I just wanted to make it and step up for my team so we could come back.”
Hollister’s offense became too one-dimensional during the comeback as Bailey (20 points) accounted for all the visitor’s points in the second half. She ended the Lady Tigers’ lengthy scoreless run with a brief spurt that included a 3, but Marshfield shut the door by making all eight of its free-throw attempts in the final period, half of them courtesy of junior Brooklyn Crawford, who finished with a team-high 14 points.
That finish was a stark contrast to a first quarter that included three 3-pointers from Gabby Franciskovich that helped put Hollister ahead 22-9. The Lady Tigers repeatedly ran ball screens for Bailey, who then often searched for open teammates on the perimeter.
“Our real problem was that they were really good three-point shooters, but once we figured out how to shut that down and help off on [Bailey] it got a lot easier,” Marshfield junior Addison Crider said.
The duties of guarding Bailey primarily went to Alliyah Joiner (12 points) and Kori Cromer, but Cromer picked up her fourth foul midway through the third, opening the door for Stephens, who said she’s focused on discipline, defense and keeping her “chicken wing” in on her shot while waiting for a night like Monday.
“I just always try to have energy and pay attention to scouting before the games so I know what I’m doing when I’m going in,” Stephens said.
Crider called the win “huge,” and Lady Jays head coach Katie Pritchard agreed in calling it the team’s best win of the season, one that puts Marshfield and Mount Vernon atop the Big 8 East at 4-1; the Lady Tigers are now 4-2.
“It was definitely the biggest game to date for us,” Pritchard said. “We showed some toughness that I don’t know that we’d seen before.”
The three-game win streak that the Lady Jays (12-9) are currently riding began with a 55-31 victory over Reeds Spring. They received a major bench contribution in that win as Maile Peck went off for 21 points.
“The great thing about this team is that each night we’ve had different kids step up, and it’s a different lineup that kind of sparks us,” Pritchard said.
Another important conference game looms Thursday as Marshfield travels to Logan-Rogersville. It’s the third time the teams have met this season, but the Lady Jays will be looking to flip the result after L-R won 59-52 at the Pink and White Tournament on Dec. 27, then 33-31 at the Lady Wildcat Classic on Jan. 22.