Not all shooters are born. Sometimes they’re made.
Take the case of Alana Armstrong. Lorena’s red-haired senior floor general has launched hundreds of 3-pointers in the practice gym over the past couple of years, and her work is paying dividends. She drilled six shots from 3-point range as 22nd-ranked Lorena sank Robinson, 60-50, in the District 17-4A opener for both teams on Tuesday night at Robinson.
Armstrong popped in at least one trey in every quarter, and finished with a game-best 25 points.
“Armstrong’s put a lot of work in,” Lorena coach Rodney Gee said. “She wasn’t a great shooter when she was a freshman and sophomore, but she’s put a lot of work in and has become a really good shooter and a really good leader for us. I’d rank her right up there (with our best shooters), because we’ve had some really good ones.”
The Lady Leopards (8-3 overall, 1-0 in district) sparkled like Chevy Chase’s Christmas lights on this night. Spreading the floor with their perimeter snipers, they crisply swung the ball around to the open player from the start, keeping Robinson’s defense on the run.
“I thought we were terrific on offense tonight,” Gee said. “We executed what we wanted to try to get done what we wanted done. Kids knocked down shots for us, which always helps. But our ball movement is a big deal, because it kind of makes people spread out a little bit with us and we can attack some things inside.”
Lorena held a one-point lead midway through the first quarter, but proceeded to close the period on a 7-0 run. Senior forward Michelle Runyan gave the team a jolt like a human energy drink, including a play where she crashed the glass for an offensive rebound and putback while drawing a foul, with the ball hanging tantalizingly on the rim before dropping through.
Robinson (0-1 in district) made its share of runs, but couldn’t sustain any kind of hot shooting touch. The Rockettes trailed 15-4 early in the second quarter following an Armstrong trey from the wing. Then the Rockettes produced a 10-2 surge, highlighted by a Shelby Salter 3-pointer and a Brooke Ashcraft 17-footer that touched nothing but net.
“Salter and (Sydney) Jaro have been hitting a lot of shots for us,” Robinson coach Keith Smith said. “I think tonight we were 18 for something, it was bad. Sometimes the ball goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. But a lot of it had to do with Lorena’s defense, they did a good job.”
Indeed, the Lady Leopards were like a test-taking student with a crib sheet – they had an answer for every Robinson run. Following that second-quarter spurt, Lorena gained some separation when Jasmin Franklin bottomed out a 3-pointer when Robinson’s defense was slow to rotate, followed immediately by a Runyan steal and breakaway layup.
Robinson again pulled to within four after a pair of Madison Crowson free throws late in the second quarter. But Lorena executed its final play of the half perfectly, finding Franklin on an inbounds pass for a buzzer-beating trey, pushing the gap back to 30-23.
“I’m actually going to tell our kids that, because I thought that was a really big deal,” Gee said. “Every time they made a run, we made a play. I told our bench a couple of times, we were keeping them in the game when we had about three turnovers when we had a chance to extend it. But when we needed a play we made one.”
Lorena maintained a lead of 9-12 points for much of the second half, continuing to connect when it was given open looks. Armstrong was often the beneficiary, as she showed early in the fourth quarter when she set a solid pick in the lane before leaking out to the top of the key for the eventual open bomb.
In the final minutes, Lorena spread the floor and used a four-corners stall, forcing the Rockettes to foul to stop the clock. But Robinson never was able to put together the extended run it needed.
“We’ve been playing well. We’ve been shooting a little better than we did tonight,” said Smith, in his first year at Robinson after a seven-year stint at Longview in which he went 141-71. “You’ve got to give Lorena a lot of credit for that, they did a really good job defensively of getting out on our shooters, trying to make somebody else beat them. That’s kind of what happened.”
Crowson scored 11 to lead Robinson and Dylann Doyle contributed 10.
For Lorena, Runyan supplemented Armstrong’s hot shooting by scoring 15 points of her own. Franklin swished in nine on a trio of treys.