Carrying out a solid game plan, Ensworth’s girls basketball team secured perhaps its most impressive victory of the young season.
The host Tigers (4-1) thumped Hillsboro 57-42 Tuesday night, mainly on the strength of their impressive inside game, and head into their own Ensworth Classic opening Friday with some momentum.
The duo of 5-foot-10 Keneesha Nichols (19 points) and 5-foot-11 Justice Swett (14) combined for 33 points and helped with a smothering defense, which limited Hillsboro (7-2) to just 33 percent shooting.
"We wanted to contain their scorers and pound it inside, and I think we did that,'' Nichols, who also grabbed eight rebounds, said. "If I got covered inside, I just passed it to the open players.''
Both teams entered the game with but one loss, each to reigning Class AAA state champion Riverdale, the state's top-ranked team.
The Tigers actually are close to being 5-0.
"Late in the game against Riverdale, we came down three straight times with a chance to tie and never could get the big basket,'' coach Hubie Smith said. "It was quite a game, and Riverdale's got a great team.''
Ensworth fell behind 4-0, but grabbed control and took the lead for good at 12-10 on a hoop by Swett. The Tigers led 30-21 at the half. The closest Hillsboro got in the second half was 51-40.
"I think our depth wore them down,” Smith said. "We tried to press their guards and make it difficult to get the ball inside. We very conscious of their post player [Nicole Bowers] and we did a nice job of holding her down [six points].”
Smith’s biggest challenge every game might be to keep track of those who share his last name.
Four Ensworth players also are named Smith. His daughter Becca is the point guard. Brittany and Brielle Smith are twins, and Blaire Smith is their cousin.
"I still have a hard time telling Brittany and Brielle apart,'' Hubie Smith said.
Blaire Smith scored 10 points, and Brittany Smith added eight.
Senior guard Araya Fleming led the Burros with 12 points, and Tariana Carter added 11.
Hillsboro tries to get back on track when it hosts Hunters Lane on Friday night.
"Defensively, we did not play well at all,'' coach Cherish Stringfield said. "Offensively, sometimes, it looked like we weren't sure of ourselves.
"But at this point, a little over a month into the season, I like the direction our team is going. We've lost to two good teams. We just have to stay with it and keep improving day to day.
Nichols, similarly, is pleased with the Tigers’ performance thus far.
"I think we're much better than we were last year,'' she said. "We're improving game by game.''
The Ensworth Classic opens Friday with these games: Ensworth vs. Brentwood girls, 4 p.m.; Ensworth vs. Brentwood boys, 5:30 p.m.; Pope John Paul II vs. Hamilton Heights (Chattanooga) girls, 7 p.m.; Pope John Paul II vs. Hamilton Heights boys, 8:30 p.m.
Ensworth also hosts its Hoopfest the following week, Dec. 21-22, which includes Brentwood Academy and Clarksville boys and girls.