DURHAM — Kiara Leslie had enough scholarship options to commit to women’s college basketball power Maryland in April of her junior year.
But the Holly Springs senior is so well-known from three previous varsity seasons that she can post a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds and people leave the gym wondering if something is wrong with her.
Leslie led the Golden Hawks to a 50-47 victory against Jordan on Monday night, but her totals that included four steals weren’t taken from last year’s playbook. There was less slashing to the hoop than a year ago, when she averaged 20.3 points and 11.9 rebounds a game.
The 5-foot-11 guard/forward is bothered by a nagging hip injury suffered last spring competing for her travel team.
“I can’t maneuver as well as I’m used to,” Leslie said. “But I want to play and help my team win as much as possible. I’m trying to maintain my game the best I can for the team.”
With the victory, Holly Springs’ girls improved to 3-0 in a game that was the first half of a girls-boys double-header. Jordan’s boys improved to 3-0 with an 83-61 win against Holly Springs (0-3) in the nightcap.
Leslie saw limited opportunities to score against Jordan’s box-and-1 defense, but she made decisive plays down the stretch. In the fourth quarter she recorded four points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Holly Springs girls’ coach Richard Young and Leslie are trying to find a balance between allowing her to play and enjoying her senior year without jeopardizing her future. Young already has given Leslie one night off when the Hawks didn’t need her in the second game, a 73-30 win against Heritage.
“She’s still working hard and doing as much as she can for us,” Young said. “She can still go to the basket, but I want her to shoot more jump shots this year.”
Leslie and Hadiya Howard are the team’s only returning starters, but Howard and the Hawks’ younger players showed signs they can score without Leslie.
Leslie picked up her second foul and left the game for the remainder of the second quarter with 5:18 left in the half. Holly Springs led only 20-16 at the time, but three different players scored to bump the lead to 27-16. Junior Kelsey Holloway hit a 3-pointer, junior Vielka Barber a layup and sophomore Brianna Tate converted an offensive rebound.
“My team has been doing well without me,” Leslie said. “They scored when I was out of the game, and then I fill in where they need me.”
Howard finished with 13 points, Holloway had nine, Tate added eight and Barber four. Jordan’s Lizz Layne had 15 points, and Salita Greene added 12.
In the boys’ game, Jordan was led by 13 points from Mike Lee and 12 from Michael Spears and Tyreek Frye. Holly Springs received 16 points from Craig McDaniel and 12 from Devon Reese.