Archdeacon: Miami women’s basketball standout ‘a rare breed’

Miami women's basketball leading scorer Peyton Scott vs. Eastern Michigan. Miami University photo
Miami women's basketball leading scorer Peyton Scott vs. Eastern Michigan. Miami University photo

Credit: Scott Kissell

Credit: Scott Kissell

OXFORD – It was one of the first games of the season in a Brown County basketball league for little boys, all of them around third grade.

But when the out-of-county team from Lynchburg took the court, it had a girl in uniform.

And that’s when one of the boys from the opposing Ripley team came over near the Lynchburg bench and sniffed his disbelief that the scorekeeper, Heather Scott, happened to hear.

“The kid says, ‘You guys got a GIRL on the team?!!’” Heather recalled Tuesday with a chuckle. “Then he said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m sure you guys are good.’” And he kind of laughed.”

Heather didn’t say anything.

She just let the girl – Peyton Scott, her daughter and Lynchburg’s starting point guard – offer the rejoinder on the court.

And it didn’t take long.

“On the first play of the game, she stole the ball from him and went down and made a lay-up,” Heather said. “And after the game it was so funny. That little boy came back over. That’s when I said, ‘That’s my daughter!’”

By then the boy had changed his tune. He was like “Wow, she can play. She’s something!”

Heather proudly recounted what happened after then: “The coolest thing is that he went to a rival school and was a good player himself and he became a great supporter of Peyton throughout her career.”

And what a career she had.

As a senior at Lynchburg-Clay High School, she averaged 27.4 points and 10.9 rebounds a game and was named the Southern Hills Athletic Conference Player of the Year. She ended up the school’s all-time leading scorer – for girls and boys – with 2,202 points, was a two-time All-Ohio selection and got offers from several colleges before choosing Miami.

Saturday afternoon at Millet Hall in Oxford, Scott produced another “Wow…She’s something” moment – even on a day when the RedHawks were getting pummeled by Bowling Green.

A 5-foot-8 sophomore guard, Scott is forced to carry a big load on a team that is riddled by injuries and had a couple of opt-outs, she said, because of the threat of COVID 19.

Coming into the game, Miami was 1-11 this season, though they did have some optimism when it came to the 10-3 Falcons. Just a month earlier in the teams’ first meeting at Bowling Green, Miami had led 34-33 at the half and ended up losing by just five points

But this time, things came apart quickly for Miami, which made just two of 13 shots in the first quarter and trailed 22-4. The second quarter wasn’t much better and the RedHawks went to the halftime dressing room down 46-14.

Miami coach DeUnna Hendrx (left) and sophomore guard Peyton Scott. Miami Athletics photo
Miami women's basketball leading scorer Peyton Scott vs. Eastern Michigan. Miami University photo

Credit: Scott Kissell

Credit: Scott Kissell

Using her voice

“I thought I was doing something at halftime, giving them an inspirational motivational speech,” Miami coach DeUnna Hendrix would say later. “Then we leave the locker room downstairs and come back up to the court, but Peyton grabbed the team at the top of the stairs. She had them all huddled together and they were locked in on everything she was saying.”

Later Scott said she felt she had to speak up:

“I felt it was the right time to say something. Coaches can do so much and you hear their voices and you respect them, but sometimes it’s different when it comes from a teammate or a peer because ultimately we’re the ones on the court going through it.

“And I believe God has blessed me with a voice that needs to be heard. I think I have a leadership ability that maybe some other people don’t and I feel it would be a disservice if I didn’t use that voice.

“I want to make an impact here at Miami, not just by doing things on the court, but with my voice and my energy and presence. And one day when I’m gone from here, I hope to be remembered for a lot more than just being a basketball player.”

While that may well come, at the moment she’s in the middle of a tough season. And as she talked about “God’s gift,” she also managed to finally laugh and admit:

“But God has some crazy timing sometimes.”

That was the case Saturday. With the RedHawks flirting with their worse loss of the season – 39 points at Ohio State in December – Scott spoke earnestly to her teammates:

“I told them, ‘We’re getting to play basketball now and all teams can’t say that this season. And we get to have some fans and not everyone gets that either. Now we have to give back.

“‘This isn’t about basketball right now. It’s bigger than that. It’s about our character. It’s about our fight, our effort, our heart.”

Her attempts to reignite the RedHawks didn’t quite turn into a Rocky movie or a “Win one for the Gipper” moment, but the team did show effort and heart in the second half and played BGSU close over the final two quarters, being outscored 41-38.

Miami still lost, 87-52, and now stands 1-12, but there were glimmers of better times. Katie Davidson got hot in the second half and finished with 19 points.

And Scott again was the RedHawks’ biggest weapon. She had 17 points – she’s scored in double figures every game this year – and she had 10 rebounds and seven assists.

This season she leads the team in scoring (19.2), assists, steals and minutes. She’s second in rebounds (6.6.)

That leadership on the court and off, prompts Hendrix to all but gush:

“She has a growth mindset that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen in a 19-year-old.

“She’s a rare breed…Just an unbelievable kid.”

D1721 Womens Basketball vs E. Michigan
D1721 Womens Basketball vs E. Michigan

Credit: Scott Kissell

Credit: Scott Kissell

‘I love Miami’

You know you’re in Peyton Scott territory when you go down Wise Road just southwest of Lynchburg.

“Let’s see, there’s our house, my grandparents, an aunt and uncle, three sets of cousins, another aunt, an uncle and some more…Altogether, let me count: 5…6…7…8 houses of my family.”

“Actually nine,” said her mom, who’s now Heather Pierce.

Both agree Peyton’s favorite place was the home of her maternal grandparents, Terry and Pam Davidson.

“That was where I had my first basketball rim,” she said. “It had an old, wooden backboard and a gravel driveway you had to dribble on.”

Heather knows that hoop: “My dad first put it up for me when I was a girl. I remember asking him, ‘Can’t we get some blacktop or concrete out here?’

“And he said, ‘No, it will help you control the ball better when you dribble.’”

It paid off for Peyton who was recruited to Miami by then-coach Megan Duffy. She was part of a stellar, five-player recruiting class, but in March of 2019, Duffy left the program to take a job at Marquette.

Before Hendrix – who had had a superb coaching career at High Point – could get settled in as the new Miami coach, three of the incoming players decommited and went elsewhere.

Scott and Amani Freeman decided to stay with Miami.

Hendrix thought the while ordeal gave Scott a little “chip on her shoulder” to prove just how good she could be.

Scott said she never thought about leaving: “I love Miami.”

And she said she’s hit it off with Hendrix:

“I respect her. I think she is an amazing coach. And she and her coaches have been a rock for me just like I try to be for them.”

Last season as a freshman Scott had some big games – 24 against Pitt, 28 against Toledo – and made the Mid-American Conference All- Freshman Team. Eleven days ago, she set a career scoring mark with 34 points – along with eight rebounds, eight steals and seven assists – in an eight-point loss to Northern Illinois.

Hendrix said Scott – who’s also on the Dean’s List – is always trying to improve herself:

“She’s asking us for books and podcasts and anything she can use to make herself and those around her better.”

Scott said she has focused on people she feels who have “played the game the right way: People like Kobe and LeBron, Steve Nash and Sabrina Ionescu.”

And with them in mind, Hendrix stressed a point to Scott the other day:

“When you look at the people who motivate you and inspire you, they had to go through something, right?

“It’s part of it. Part of the story. Not the easy part, but a part you can learn from.”

But then Peyton Scott already knew all about that.

She had taken a little third grade boy from Ripley through that very same process long ago.