It's no secret that Judge Memorial center Noel Hollingsworth has increasingly become a central focus in various defensive plans concocted by other teams. Last season, the Bulldog senior could expect to see double or triple teams in some games. This year, such an occurrence happens just about every time he steps on the court.
"We know we're going to get zones going into games," Hollingsworth said. "Even with a team we've never seen play a zone (before), we know it's probably going to happen."
All the extra defensive pressure has done little to slow Hollingsworth down. He is the team leader in scoring for a second consecutive season, averaging 20.5 points per game. His scoring ability has also boosted Hollingsworth into the top three among 3A scorers for the second year in a row.
Still, points are not a barometer he uses to measure his basketball success. Instead, Hollingsworth looks to what he can do with rebounds as a truer measure of how much he is helping his team.
The fact he also leads Judge in that category means a lot to him.
"It's just something I like to focus on," Hollingsworth said. "It's something I can control."
In his two seasons as a starter, Hollingsworth has left no doubts concerning his abilities to fill the shoes of talented predecessor Daniel Deane. His transition into a major role makes him a good template for younger Bulldog starters trying to do the same this season.
Like Hollingsworth once did, many of his fellow starters are stepping in to fill roles occupied by former Judge stars. Stallon Saldivar, also a starter a year ago, followed Jaxon Myaer at point guard. Walker Gale took over from Cort Dennison at power forward.
"It is some hard shoes to fill," Saldivar said. "It was good for me to look and see how he played and see how a true point guard really reacts through situations and everything."
Of course, when you have a player like Hollingsworth who draws so much attention, it does a lot to relieve some of the pressure that would otherwise be there. Saldivar said it easy to play with him in the middle because it opens up the perimeter more fully.
"He makes all of his shots," Saldivar said. "It just draws a lot of defenders in and so it opens everything up for our team."
Shooters like Saldivar and Oliver Hughes have made their increased shooting opportunities count. Hughes leads 3A in three-point shooting with 43 three pointers in the Bulldogs' first 14 games. He and Saldivar average 13.1 points and 11.8 points per game respectively keeping teams honest who tend to overload defensively on Hollingsworth.
With that inside-outside presence, Judge is already carving out a niche as a state title favorite in 3A. The Bulldogs prepared themselves for the rigors of the state tournament by scheduling a slew of 4A and 5A opponents in November and December and came into January with an impressive 6-3 mark.Along the way, Judge scored a big upset over Bountiful and gave both Skyline and Brighton a scare.