YORK – It's been a while since anyone has been as dominant in Bay Rivers District girls basketball play as Grafton. Then again, the Clippers almost have to go unbeaten in the district and get the No. 1 seed in what should be a very tough Region I Division 4 tournament to have a realistic shot at making the state tournament.
The Clippers took another step toward district perfection with a 63-44 win on Monday over visiting Smithfield. Grafton (16-2, 14-0) can run the table by winning its final four games, at least two of which could be difficult.
"We have Tabb coming up on Thursday and that will be tough," Clippers coach Tommy Bayse said of the talented and improving Tigers. "Then we play at Jamestown, where we're 0-3 since I've been head coach."
Clippers point guard Emily Beyer said, "It would be really big to go unbeaten (in district play). I don't know the last time it's been done, but we have the perfect opportunity to do it.
"That's our goal."
The Clippers blew out third-place Smithfield (9-6, 9-4) with dominant defense and rebounding in the first half. They led 38-15 at intermission by forcing the Packers into 16 turnovers and 20 percent (6 of 30 shooting) in the first half.
The catalyst for the turnovers was trapping defense. The Clippers forced many of the miscues by extending their pressure full court, but trapped effectively to get numerous turnovers when the Packers got the ball over half-court.
"We've been working extra hard since Christmas break, trapping in the corners, up here (half-court) or down low," said Beyer, who had 14 points and five rebounds.
The Clippers applied the offensive pressure in shifts. Hannah Olson scored the first five points, before Beyer hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in a 10-0 run that gave Grafton an 18-6 lead.
Olivia Wilson (18 points, 13 rebounds) followed nine consecutive points for the Clippers. Grafton finished the first half on a 9-0 run, with Christa Hall scoring seven of her 11 points. Savanna Baxley had only four points in the game, but got most of her 10 rebounds in the first half.
"We don't necessarily need Savanna to score but we need her to rebound," Bayse said of Baxley, who also contributed five steals.
Smithfield coach Greg Dockery said, "I thought Grafton's first-half rebounding was the difference in the game. I told our girls that Grafton is too good for us not to rebound."
The Packers were better in all phases in the second half. They competed with more intensity and took advantage of Olson's foul trouble (she fouled out early in the fourth quarter) to cut a Grafton lead that peaked at 60-29 to 19 at the final buzzer.
Smithfield is in a fight with Poquoson for second in the district going into their matchup on Tuesday at Smithfield. Dockery is hoping the strong finish at Grafton will help.
"We showed good effort tonight but made too many mistakes," he said. "The good thing is that we play Poquoson (Tuesday) so we won't dwell on this loss."