DENHAM SPRINGS – By the time leading scorer Kate Thompson scored her first points six minutes into the game, Denham Springs had already built a double-digit lead.
Visiting Jewel Sumner chose to pack in its defense around Thompson, thus opening the perimeter for the Lady Jackets to take aim which guards Maddie Howell and Kennedy King obliged by combining for four 3-point baskets.
It was part of an explosive first quarter in which Denham Springs took a commanding lead which it never relinquished, opening the season Tuesday with an impressive 70-25 victory over Jewel Sumner at Grady Hornsby Gymnasium.
“It made us more comfortable that we were scoring the ball well,” Denham Springs senior forward Trenishia Muse said. “We fed off of them (Howell and King) and we talked about keeping it going. Then Kate and I talked about it being our time and we wanted to show them what we could do around the rim. We just executed well.”
Denham Springs shot 44 percent in the first half and made 50 percent of its shots in third quarter for a 55-18 lead, leaving just Muse and King on the floor to start the fourth quarter.
Thompson wound with 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds, had five steals, blocked four shots and dished out three assists in three quarters of action. Muse scored nine of her 18 points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, leaving with 5:09 to play and Denham Springs leading 64-22.
The Lady Jackets went on to lead by as many as 46 points (68-22) after an offensive rebound from Chloe Roy and two free throws from Colin Macias.
“She’s going to be one of our better players,” Denham Springs coach Blake Zito said of Muse. “The reason is she can play 1-4. If we can have success, it’s going to be because of her unselfishness or willingness to learn all the different spots and do whatever we ask her to do.”
Zito credited his team’s preseason competition against defending state champions Captain Shreve and John Curtis, along with state semifinalist East Ascension, for helping prepare his squad to be able to dive head-first into the start of a new season.
The Lady Jackets trailed for a total of 33 seconds in the game on a basket from Jewel Sumner’s leading scorer Jonee’ Sims (17 points), but the first of Howell’s three 3-pointers gave her team the lead for good.
The first four field goals for the Lady Jackets were all 3-pointers from either Howell or King and Muse added a free throw for a 13-2 lead.
Thompson scored on a driving layup and knocked down a 10-footer before King closed a 20-2 first-quarter surge with a 3-pointer from the corner on a feed from Carly Cruise.
“That’s the biggest difference from last year,” Zito said of his team’s outside shooting. “We had Maddie last year that could really fill it up, but Kennedy’s been shooting just as well. Now we’ve really got outside shooters and if people are going to collapse on Kate, which is going to happen, they’re going to have to give up open shots and we’ll be there to take them.”
DSHS’ run reached 24 unanswered points with Thompson making a pair of free throws and feeding Muse for a layup that made it 24-2.
Sumner, which shot 18 percent (8 of 44) for the game and committed 22 turnovers, ended a stretch of 11 straight missed shots when Sims scored on a layup.
Thompson scored on back-to-back trips down the floor and Reagan David scored all five of her points in the last four minutes, including consecutive baskets that came on assists from Roy and King for a 33-13 halftime advantage.
Thompson and Muse combined on a 10-0 run out of the locker room for the Yellow Jackets, with each assisting the other on layups and Thompson, who scored nine points in the quarter, also making a pair of three throws for a 43-13 cushion.
“The sharing of the ball was special; Kate Thompson really shared the ball well,” Zito said. “When your best player is making that extra pass it’s contagious. Kudos to her for the job she did.”