The unusual juxtaposition of a pair of Paris girls who are pacing the team so far this season is hard to miss.
The unusual juxtaposition of a pair of players who are pacing the Paris girls basketball team so far this season is hard to miss.
Sophomore Tori Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 center, and senior Grace Peak, a maybe 5-foot point guard, are combining to give opposing teams fits because of their inside-outside combination that helps the Lady Coyotes spread defenses.
Tall or small, each are having breakout seasons.
“The team has gotten off to some slow starts, but they (Hamilton and Peak) have helped pick us up,” Paris coach Garrett Thomas said of his 7-3 Lady Coyotes as they prepare for the heart of Lewis & Clark Conference play.
Hamilton, thanks to a spring and summer of AAU play, has stepped up her game from her freshman season, when she was often pushed around by opponents. But not in the 2017-18 campaign. She is stronger and more accurate.
Hamilton holds her ground and makes inside shots. Coming off the bench, she is averaging 10 points and more than 5 rebounds a game. Only junior guard Alison Moore is a more prolific scorer for the squad.
“I have learned how to control myself and I am more confident,” Hamilton said. “In AAU ball we had a professional trainer who worked with us on weights. I am in better control of my body this season, and I am playing better.”
Thomas said Hamilton’s confidence is growing each game.
“She moves her body much better than last year; now she is catching the ball, making rebounds and taking good shots,” Thomas said. “She is making 55 percent to 60 percent of her shots, so she is leading in percentages made. Last year, a lot of her shots were off balance, but this season she is in position and taking control.”
Meanwhile, Peak has emerged as a fearless defender and opportune shooter on offense. At what she admits is “pretty much” 5 feet tall, teams in the early season have taken her for granted.
Peak plays aggressive defense and refuses to give ground, which has led to her taking charging calls against opponents.
“Size in basketball does not always have to matter if you are in position and front of the girl you are guarding,” Thomas said. “They cannot run over you. Grace gets in front of someone and does not move. She has to be pretty fearless getting in front of anybody like that. Other girls may move out of the way, she does not, which means the opponents play around her or she takes a charge.”
On offense, Peak mentioned the intense focus opponents give to Hamilton has created opportunities for herself.
“When Tori gets the ball, they collapse to her, and that creates opportunities for me on the outside,” she said. “At the beginning of the season, I was barely shooting the ball and last year, I barely shot the ball, but as we got into games, people started hanging off and leaving me wide open. And if they leave me wide open, I am going to shoot the ball, which allows us to stretch the defense.”
Peak spent the summer practicing four and five days week, working on her shooting.
“I wanted to prove that I could do more than defense, so I worked hard on shooting the ball,” she said. “This summer, I shot the ball all the time during our practices.”
Hamilton and Peak are pacing a strong Paris team. Two of the Lady Coyotes’ three losses have come to undefeated Monroe City, and the other a road loss to South Shelby.