John Tyler point guard Kaleaon Grant played second string as a freshman last year behind Tameal Jones. With Jones now across town at UT Tyler, Grant is showing how valuable she can be as a starter.
Grant had five steals in the first quarter and filled up the stat sheet as John Tyler dominated Dallas South Oak Cliff 80-34 on Monday night in the home opener at the Lions Den.
With a final tally of eight steals, seven points, seven rebounds and five assists, Grant helped spark a Lady Lions defense that forced 31 turnovers, 21 in the first half.
"Kaleaon is just a gnat that won't go away," JT coach Mike Smith said. "She just keeps making stuff happen. She's been such an inspiration to everybody because of how hard she plays on defense. She's worth her weight in gold in what she does for us."
Fellow sophomore Destini Whitehead scored 24 points to lead JT (2-0) in scoring for the second straight game while adding five steals, six boards and three assists. Alyssa Mayfield added 16 and Ashtyn Beal had 15 as all 10 Lady Lions scored.
With Mayfield (nine) and Brea Criss (eight), JT held a 56-34 advantage on the glass.
The JT defense hounded South Oak Cliff (1-2) early and often. The Lady Lions racked up 15 steals in the first half, which helped JT attempt twice as many shots in that span. At one point in the third quarter, the Lady Lions had four buckets and three steals in less than 30 seconds to take a 60-25 lead.
"I'm really, really proud of the effort it takes to play defense; when you get that kind of effort from your kids you know you're going to have a chance no matter who you play," Smith said.
The Lady Golden Bears returned everyone from a district-championship team last year but traveled with just seven players. Ashikia White led the visitors with 13 points while Jackie Allen had eight points and nine boards.
With 1:15 to play, a third SOC player fouled out, leaving four eligible players. Smith tried to be sporting and take a JT player off the court before referees made him play with five. With 35 seconds left, a fourth SOC player fouled out, resulting in a 5-on-3 scenario for the remainder of the game.
Not that it mattered, with the game long wrapped up by then.
John Tyler 80, Dallas South Oak Cliff 34
SOC 11 8 7 8 - 34
John Tyler 18 21 29 12 - 80
SOUTH OAK CLIFF -Shay Brown, 9; Zionne Wallace, 2; Yazmen Williams, 2; Ashikia White, 13; Jackie Allen, 8; Damia Walton, 0; Alexis Pipkens, 0. FG: 10-42. FT: 14-20.
JOHN TYLER - Kaleigh Hackett, 1; Kaleaon Grant, 7; Kandice Jackson, 5; Alyssa Mayfield, 16; Destini Whitehead, 24; Ashtyn Beal, 15; Shakendra Tilley, 2; Brea Staten, 4; Daz Johnson, 3; Brea Criss, 3. FG: 28-69. FT: 21-46.
THREE POINT GOALS - SOC (0-7). JT (3-10): Whitehead, Beal (2).
JV SCORE - John Tyler 51, SOC 44
RECORDS - SOC 1-2; John Tyler 2-0.
NEXT UP - Pine Tree at John Tyler, 4 p.m. Friday.