As much as Laney girls coach Otis Smart tried to hide it, his players knew what was at stake in their season opener Tuesday night.
Smart entered the contest at Richmond Academy needing just one win to give him 400 victories in his 17-year coaching career. And his players weren't about to let it slip between their fingers.
The Lady Wildcats (1-0) used an 11-2 run over the first 3:57 of the third quarter to build a 50-24 lead, then held off Richmond Academy in the final quarter to post a 73-63 to put Smart in some elite company.
In the boys' game, Richmond Academy did almost what the Laney girls did, building a large first-half lead and coasting to an 84-66 victory in the late game.
Smart's milestone won't be the only milestone accomplished among area coaches this season. Josey girls coach Lynn Brantly needs just three more wins to reach No. 600 in her career.
"I've been through a lot in my 17 years, but I owe it all to the kids," Smart said after the game, almost choosing to avoid the subject. "We've got some good kids that want to win. This (milestone) goes from this team down to Janice Wilkinson (1985) and Jackie Givens (1987) who played here."
The Lady Wildcats' two guards, Ernesia Wideman and sophomore Sheena Freeman, helped spark Laney during the early minutes in the third quarter. Wideman added five points, including a three-pointer, while Freeman added four points. They led 53-34 and seemed to be in control until the fourth quarter.
The Lady Musketeers (2-2) sank five three-point baskets, including two from Edwina Johnson, to put Richmond back into the contest. However, Richmond Academy dug itself too big a hole early in the game and time ran out on their comeback bid.
"400 wins are nice, but the only thing I haven't experienced is a state title," Smart said. "We've been in seven Final Fours and five times we lost to Hart County (who won the state title those five times). So while Hart was beating us, they were going on to win the state. We played Woodward in the championship in 1995 and lost.
"I've never had any luck (in the state tournament), but some coaches have never won a state title and they've been in it for 30 years."
Smart said he was pleased with the play of freshman Shakethia Brown, who scored all 12 of her points in the final quarter to hold off ARC's comeback.
In the boys' game, Brad Reid and James Stokeling keyed an 8-0 run midway through the second quarter to build a 42-16 lead with 4:27 left and never looked back.
In the fourth quarter, Laney's Latavius Walker helped ignite an 11-0 run that trimmed Richmond's lead to 19 points at 79-60 with 2:33 left in the contest, but that was as close as they could get.
The Musketeers took advantage of several Laney turnovers and turned them into points.
Reid finished the night with 25 points, while Stokeling tossed in 17 to pace Richmond. Tyrone Taylor led Laney (0-1) with 21 points.
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