Starting games slowly has been a struggle for the Hanover High Hawkettes, a problem girls' basketball coach Denny Garman has been looking to fix for much of the season.
On Thursday night at the Hawk House, Soukaina Tracy was the answer.
The freshman scored seven of the Hawkettes' first nine points, and Hanover ran away with a 59-24 win over visiting New Hope Academy Charter School.
"I came to her before warm-ups," Garman said, "and told her that the first quarter had to be her best quarter. She came out with energy. It seemed like she was grabbing every rebound and was aggressively going to the basket."
"We started slow (as a team). It's something we're working on, playing a whole four quarters no matter who we play against."
Tracy finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four first- half steals, pacing the Hawkettes in all four categories.
Tracy hit Hanover's only two field goals through the first six minutes as Hanover held a 9-2 lead, and then she played the role of facilitator to help Hanover's lead grow.
Renee Drawbaugh hit a running shot in the lane off an assist from Tracy to make it 11-2, and then the Hawkettes went 5-of-6 from the line to end the opening quarter with a 16-2 lead.
Hanover made a living at the free throw line, making 18 of a whopping 29 attempts for the game.
"I liked the amount of times we got to the line," Garman said. "I asked the girls specifically to attack the basket and get to the line."
Hanover's determination to get to the line also yielded fruit of another kind -- foul trouble for its opponent.
By the end of the first quarter, Hanover was already in the bonus, and New Hope's Shikya Johnson and Damysha Spates were burdened with three fouls each.
This resulted in the Mighty Ants' head coach, Brandon Deshields, changing his defensive strategy.
"Because of the fact that we're not that deep, and we were already missing a couple of girls tonight," Deshields said, "we had to play zone the whole game to protect people."
Hanover responded by attacking the middle of the zone and getting into the paint. The Hawkettes scored eight points in the paint during the second quarter after scoring just half that many in the opening eight minutes.
Hanover also continued to get to the line, going 6-of-10 at the charity stripe in the quarter.
The Hawkettes built a 33-6 lead before back-to-back layups by Malaysha Green and Kialee Dalemini brought the Mighty Ants into double figures.
Hanover led 34-10 at the break, and four New Hope players had at least three fouls.
Hanover continued to add to the lead in the second half, but a stubborn effort from the Mighty Ants kept the 40-point mercy rule from being put into effect.
Green scored a team-high 12 points with eight rebounds, while Johnson secured 14 rebounds for New Hope.
The Hawkettes sat their starters for the whole fourth quarter, clearing the bench and playing the reserves for extended minutes.
NEW HOPE ACADEMY (24)
Dalamini 3 0-0 7, S. Johnson 2 0-0 4, Malaysha Green 5 1-4 12, Sexton 0 0-0 0, Santiago 0 1-6 1, Spates 0 0-0 0, Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 2-10 24.
Barnes 2 2-4 6, Renee Drawbaugh 3 6-8 12, Z. Tracy 0 0-0 0, Herrick 0 0-0 0, Silver 0 2-2 2, Giannini 1 1-2 4, Naill 3 0-0 6, Hammond 2 0-0 4, Cleary 0 1-2 1, Bowersox 0 0-0 0, Gibson 0 0-0 0, Soukaina Tracy 9 4-5 22, Hoffman 0 1-2 1, Smith 0 0-0 0, Yealy 0 1-4 1. Totals 20 18-29 59.
New Hope 2 8 5 9 -- 24
Hanover 16 18 18 7 -- 59
3-point goals -- New Hope 2 (Dalamini, Green); Hanover 1 (Giannini).
JV score -- No game.