By Tom Robinson
OXON HILL, Md. – The JB Hoops Bucci team improved to 23-1 in live events on the season Sunday while showing off how it has compiled such a record.
“I thought you saw the team that we have built today,” coach John Bucci said after a 62-34 drubbing of the Carolina Waves 17 BSTT.
The win, in the first of two Sunday games, was in stark contrast to the JB Hoops’ struggles in Saturday’s Pool G opener of the USJN 17U Girls Nationals at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor.
“Today, we were all more energetic and ready for the game,” said Nya Johnson, the team’s top rebounder and second-leading scorer in the win. “We all looked for one another and all worked well together today.”
After leading for just 1:25 of the second half during Saturday’s 49-45 victory over Mass Frenzy 17 Black, JB Hoops trailed for only 22 seconds in the entire game Sunday.
“Better start; better game,” Bucci said. “I thought we came out with more energy. I think the travel down affected them (Saturday).”
JB Hoops ran off 12 straight points to break the last tie and take an 18-6 lead with 9:45 left in the half.
“We were all just a little bit more focused,” Lindsey Welsh said. “A good start is always important on the scoreboard.
“I think we played just all-around; team defense, team offense, we were all working together.”
Carolina did not get closer than seven the rest of the way and JB Hoops blew the game open in the second half, outscoring the Waves, 35-16.
“This program is really good because every girl in this program cares about each other,” Bucci said. “You saw that today. You saw the enthusiasm. You saw the bench cheering and clapping.
“That’s why this team has separated itself from some other teams. These kids really care about each other.”
There was a lot to cheer about.
JB Hoops hit more than half its shots from the floor and consistently limited Carolina to one shot.
The Waves got their only two offensive rebounds in the first half. JB Hoops finished with a 35-24 rebounding advantage, including 25-2 on the defensive end.
“We did a much better job rebounding today,” Bucci said. “Our kids were impressive. They got after it.”
When Lauren Charlton and Johnson started making 3-pointers, the game turned into a runaway. They combined for 20 second-half points.
“There are certain girls who can drive and pitch and once we start knocking those shots down, we’re fine,” Johnson said.
Charlton, a 6-foot guard going into her senior year at Dallas, went 4-for-5 from long range in the half to finish with 15 points.
“In a way it was a good thing, because it made me make sure I was just focusing on my defense,” said Charlton, who was struggling with her shot in the first 1 ½ games, going 2-for-16. “Once my shot did start falling, my whole game was pulled together, which was exciting.
“ … Everyone’s telling me keep shooting. I just have to keep shooting, as hard as it is to keep my composure.”
Johnson made both of her 3-point attempts while scoring 8 of her 13 points in the second half. She also finished with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Rachael Rose sparked the fast start with five points and two assists in the 12-0 run.
“She’s playing great,” Bucci said of Rose, who has 13 assists in the first two games. “She has a really good understanding of the game and she had a better understanding today.”
It was Rose’s 3-pointer from the top of the key that broke the tie and started the streak. She assisted Charlton on the next basket, then scored on a drive.
After Mackenzie Steele hit a turnaround shot in the lane, Rose followed up a blocked shot by Cecelia Collins by pushing the ball up the floor and finding Moriah Murray for a corner 3-pointer and the 18-6 lead.
Rose finished with nine points. She shared the team lead in assists with five.
Lindsey Welsh was the other player with five assists, along with leading the team with four steals.
Collins added seven points and Leah Hodick added six by going 3-for-3 in the first half.
Charlton had five rebounds.
Steele returned from an injury to provide four points and four rebounds, but her Susquehanna High School teammate, Taylor Huyck, was unable to finish the game after suffering an ankle injury.
JB Hoops is one of two teams at 2-0 in Pool G. It is back out on the court at 2:50 against Legacy Elite 17 from Kentucky (0-2).