COLUMBIA — Basketball is in her blood.
Hickman guard Aqua Corpening was in her element in front of a home court crowd that included a small cheering section for the 5-foot-9 junior. The Kewpies earned a 49-44 victory Thursday over the visiting Holt Indians with Corpening leading the way with 22 points. Shaunece Ballenger had 10 points, and Ariana Prince scored 9.
Following in the footsteps of her older sister, joining the Kewpies only seemed natural for Corpening. Her father is a basketball referee, too.
Corpening has been playing basketball since she was 5 years old. What started with Pee Wee hoops progressed to an AAU team, which she continues to play for in addition to the Hickman team.
“It means a lot to play here,” Corpening said. “Coach (Tonya) Mirts is great. I love my team, and we all get along. It means a lot to have Hickman on the front of my jersey.”
The feeling is mutual. Corpening learned as a freshman to watch the older players. Now that she is a junior in the spotlight, she knows others are looking up to her.
“She’s our go-to player,” Mirts said. “When you’re the leader of a team, everyone watches what you say, how you act, what you do and your amount of energy, and she demonstrates it well. She does a lot of everything for us.”
Hickman led 11-9 after the first quarter and was more aggressive and stole the ball frequently in the second. Losing on the home court was not an option.
"We like winning on our home floor, and tonight we played on our own court,” Corpening said. “We didn’t come out as strong as we normally do. I didn’t come out strong. But we regrouped at half time and got the victory.”
In the second half, the Kewpies came out with more tenacity for rebounding and got more physical fighting for the ball. They scored 23 points in the third quarter, and their defense became key in holding the Indians.
“We really wanted to pressure and cough up the ball more,” Mirts said. “They hurt us in our offense. They played more physical than I thought they would."
The Kewpies compensated for their slow start by focusing on the offense once the defense was set. In the second half, the Kewpies ran through their offense, communicated more on the court and made more of an effort to drive to the basket.
“Each team we play we adjust,” Mirts said. “You have to see what the other teams throw at you, what’s in their deck."
The Kewpies play again today at Logan-Rogersville.