HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Lady Eagles come off a huge road trip, notching wins over UAB and Middle Tennessee.
The key behind those wins was the play of guard Shonte "Dump" Hailes. The sophomore poured in a career-high 28 points to help upset the Blazers 80-63.
"Some great atmospheres and we played UAB, they were kind of a little cocky," Hailes said. "I wanted to shut them up personally 'cause they were number one [in Conference USA]. After the first shot went down – it was pretty deep – I kind of knew what kind of night it was. I kind of joked around with coach [Joye Lee-McNelis]. We were playing with the wave balls and I told her I was going to go for a big night, and I actually did."
Hailes followed her career scoring night with 20 points and a career-best 13 rebounds in USM's 61-53 win at Middle Tennessee.
The two-game stretch earned Hailes Conference USA player of the week honors. The Quitman native has responded well to the challenge presented by head coach Joye Lee-McNelis.
"I struggle with the leadership part, that's pretty tough," Hailes said. "I still feel like I'm a freshman sometimes and I got to realize that some mistakes I have to play through them because you got the young people that are looking at me. Coach kind of willed me in to, 'We go as you go.'"
"We've really challenged her hard," McNelis said. "'Dump' is a young lady that when she's not feeling good, she just goes through the motions. We've had a lot of meetings, a lot of challenges, a lot of extra sprint work and those things to help her understand that a team goes as their point guard goes. She can't take a step back and I think she has finally bought into that. She's got to perform whether she's feeling bad or feeling good – that doesn't matter. I think this weekend was a huge confidence builder for her. She's had a good year, but she's got to have a great year for us to continue to have success."
Just a sophomore, Hailes is USM's second-leading scorer averaging 12.7 points per game and she leads the team in minutes per game at 31.3. The guard believes the best is yet to come for the Lady Eagles.
"If we can limit our turnovers and offensive boards, and the team shoots three balls, we can win this whole thing," Hailes said. "Coach told us that today, she was like, 'We really have a shot.' I think our girls believe it and I do too."