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Basketball: Lopez's career night helps Denmark remain undefeated
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Denmark freshman Hannah Lopez, right, defends against Forsyth Central senior Jillian Bretz Friday during the Danes' 63-38 victory against Forsyth Central. - photo by David Roberts

Hannah Lopez is only a handful of games into her high school career, but her performance Friday is likely one she will remember for a while. 

Denmark's freshman scored a career-high 23 points during a 63-38 victory against Forsyth Central to open Region 6-7A play.

"She's quick and she can beat anyone off the dribble. For her and our freshman Avery [Huffman], a lot of it's confidence," Denmark coach Jaime Maxey said. "Avery kind of had a breakout night the other night for us shooting the ball really well. Tonight Hannah finally had that moment where it's like, 'I can beat anyone off the dribble that I want.' She did a phenomenal job for us in gaps, handling the ball for us, maintaining composure. She guarded well."

Denmark entered Friday's game down a couple of starters, and when senior Sophie Smith picked up her fourth foul early in the second half, Lopez managed to keep the Danes' offense in a rhythm. 

Lopez also played solid defense, and her steal-and-score before halftime made it 25-18 with 2:01 left in the second quarter. She went for 12 points in the third quarter and also converted 4 of 6 shots from the free-throw line.

Smith finished with 13 points, hitting on a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter, while Emma Hempker had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Avery Huffman had nine points.

Central played the Danes close early, and the Bulldogs led 14-6 after the first quarter. 

Denmark shifted momentum when Katie Counter stole the ball, fed it to Smith who missed, then corralled the loose rebound and found another teammate -- this time Hempker -- who hit the field goal and the foul shot for a three-point play to make it 20-18 with 3:12 left before halftime.

Denmark focused on rebounding this week with 5-foot-10 forward Mary Kate Leonard missing time. Leonard returned Friday and turned in six rebounds.

"She hasn't practiced in over a week — you know, for 10 days — so I know tonight she wasn't at 100 percent, but she still was battling on the boards and getting a couple of chip shots in there. Boxing out has been an emphasis for her and all of our guards all week. We played the other night and we just didn't rebound the ball at all. I thought she did a really good job for us tonight."

Jillian Bretz finished with a double-double for the Bulldogs, turning in a team-high 15 points with 10 rebounds and three steals. 

Taylor Jackson had nine points and two steals, while freshman Emma Barnes scored three points, logged five rebounds and drew a charge.

The Bulldogs [0-7, 0-1 Region 6-7A] will aim to collect their first win of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday in a home game against Alpharetta.

Denmark [5-0, 1-0 Region 6-7A] has a week until next week's tilt with Gainesville and will look to continue building up its underclassmen.

"We pretty much have a brand-new team, which a lot of people didn't expect," Maxey said. :We have a really young team. On any given night, we're typically starting four or five ninth- or 10th-graders. It's just getting them the confidence on the floor and getting that exposure and just getting better every single time they step on the court. I think for them, it's just a confidence thing. They don't know they can do it until they actually do it, like Hannah tonight. I expect she's going to do some big things in the county the next four years. She's going to be a really, really good player."