Laney senior guard Kami Phillips held an ice pack over her hand after the Screven County game Friday night.
She needed it after a 67-58 win. The point guard with a very hot hand dished out 12 assists on some of the crispest no-look passes into the post one will ever see from a high school player. But that wasn't the reason the ice was on her hand.
"She had a sprained thumb we had to tape all up tonight," Laney coach Otis Smart said. "But she did have a hot hand with those passes tonight. She was real strong passing it around."
That's wasn't her only handicap. Phillips' asthma was acting up. She'd left her medication behind. Her mother had to bring it to her right before the game. But neither of those woes could temper a skill that's dying in the area at the high school level. Phillips delivered four of those assists down the stretch, and her no-look passes were so spot-on accurate they seemed fundamental. Laney closed out the game on a 15-6 run ignited by the way she fed her teammates the ball.
"Kami makes passes on a college level," Smart said. "She uses up every bit of her peripheral vision. I didn't teach her that. She learned that from somebody else than me. That's hard to teach a player. I'm not going to take credit for that."
Phillips owes that flashy part of her game to a famous name.
"I learned that from my Uncle James," she said. "My uncle James Brown. No, not that James Brown. Not the real one. ... He just told me to glance and where I want to go with the ball while I am heading down the court. Then look away. The defenders will follow my eyes where they go on the floor. So I try to not give that away with my eyes."
Phillips had been starting for Wendell Lofton at Hephzibah at point guard for the past three years. She'd been a starter for Hephzibah's last two playoff runs that ended with a 1-1 record in the Class AAA state championship games. But she decided to move into the Laney zone and play her senior year for Smart.
"I was going to just be a passer at Hephzibah," Phillips said. "I knew here that all the girls would have the green light to shoot for coach Smart. So it was my senior year and I decided I'd like to play on a team where I could pass and shoot some if I wanted to."
So, she was well-suited to the "big state playoff atmosphere" Smart said the region contest felt like. The two teams came in at a combined 39-5 record with the regular season winding down.
"Screven is a fine team," Smart said. "They could win state this year. They're real good themselves now."
The Gamecocks (19-4, 10-3 in Region 3-AA) just weren't better than Laney on its home floor. Screven chased the Lady Wildcats all over the floor and on the scoreboard after managing an early 10-9 lead. They never led the contest again after that point.
The early reason for that was forward Glentrice Sapp. She had nine points for the Lady Wildcats in the first quarter and had 15 at the half.
Junior Ty Johnson finished off what she started in the fourth quarter of a strong team effort. Johnson scored 12 of her 14 fourth-quarter points along the final 4:45.
Laney (21-2, 13-0) sliced up Screven's interior defense with a backdoor play the team put in this week just for the game.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org