Lady Wildcats find defensive rhythm in rout of visiting Cyclones
With a rare bye in the middle of last week, HHS coach Jon Holliday got a chance to turn up the intensity of practices for the girls basketball team. That “boot camp,” as he put it, clearly paid off for the Wildcats in Friday’s match-up at home against Riverside.
Not that Holton had been slacking on the defensive end, in fact the Wildcats’ defense fueled them to two key victories the week prior, but HHS found another gear against Riverside and cruised to a whopping 60-26 victory on Friday.
Holton forced a turnover and got a three-pointer from Ashlyn Weilert to start the game, but outside of that the team was a little sluggish on the offensive end early in the game. Once Holliday went to the bench a few minutes in, though, the Wildcats’ depth started to pay off.
Shay Tanking was one of those bench players (along with Taryn Weilert, Sarah Sweet, Quinn Holaday and Mackenzie Moore) inserted into the game and immediately slashed to the basket and drew a foul. She proceeded to sink both free throws and the Wildcats were off to the races after that.
“We kind of got them breathing hard maybe a little bit, then we hit them with a group that’s got a lot of energy and we got a little separation at that point in time, then we came back and hit them again,” Holliday said. “That seemed to work for us, keeping fresh bodies and fresh legs on the floor.”
Those free throws by Tanking sparked a mini-run for Holton that seemed to awaken the team offensively. While the Wildcats’ defense created plenty of problems for Riverside and gave way to a good amount of points in transition, the team also started to work more effectively in the half court later in the first quarter.
Courtney Boswell and Ashlyn Weilert pushed the tempo up the court effectively, but the team as a whole looking inside more is something Holliday said he really thought sparked the team’s strong offensive night.
“I don’t think early in the game we were facing up like we wanted to and looking to score, looking to attack. We were just kind of reversing it through the high post and not taking a look at the rim. Once we finally started looking at the rim, good things happened,” Holliday said.
Some scoring in the high post from Hayley Thompson opened up the short corner and some backside threes and Holliday said his team did a good job of reading those opportunities and taking the best shots.
After Riverside opened the second quarter with a three-pointer, Holton responded with a 10-0 run and went into halftime with a commanding 34-11 lead. By that point, the Wildcats had forced four times as many turnovers as it committed and won that battle handily on Friday with just eight turnovers on their part as compared to 33 for the Cyclones.
“This group has grown so much in that department. Stuff we weren’t getting to early in the year, we’re getting to now,” Holliday said. “I understand they’re (Riverside) not the best team, but I thought we played at our level for most of the game and mostly did a pretty good job of keeping the tempo up.”
While Holton got a little stagnant in the third quarter and gave up some inside looks to Riverside’s Sasha Perry, the team still maintained a 20-point lead through most of the period.
The defense continued to create turnovers in droves and by the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were completely loose on offense as everyone who entered the game put up some points, including Holly Karn and Shari Riley.
Time has been a key ingredient in the Wildcats’ improved half court offense, according to Holliday, as he noted the players would get anxious after four passes and force shots early in the season. Now, the Wildcats are passing 10-plus times each possession and working for the best shot, an attribute that was definitely on display Friday.
“I really like what we did in the half court and our unselfishness. The ball was moving. It didn’t stick. There are times we get in the game and the ball just sticks. We don’t get anything out of it and we didn’t see much of that Friday night,” Holliday said.
Cruising to a 60-26 victory over the Cyclones, there were plenty of factors working to the Wildcats’ advantage. Holton was sound offensively and defensively, but they also had a physical tenacity on Friday that was evidenced early on in the game.
Moore hit the floor hard after fighting for a rebound with a Riverside player in the first quarter and got back up after a short time and was reinserted into the game a little bit later. She went on to help the team win the rebounding battle as well, finishing with a team-high seven on Friday.
“You saw us hit the floor and we got back up and you saw them hit the floor and they were ready to call it an evening. I think that’s the difference between a winning basketball team and a team that’s struggling,” Holliday said.
With the team off on Tuesday and a relatively easy win on Friday, it was sort of a “breather” for the Wildcats as Holliday put it. It was a chance for the team to gather itself as Holliday noted the last two weeks of the regular season won’t be without their challenges.
Holton (10-6) will start the stretch run off with a battle on the road against Jeff West on Tuesday. Games will start at 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 13, 2015
HHS: Boswell 5 (2) 1-2 13, A. Weilert 5 (1) 1-2 12, Tanking 4 (1) 2-3 11, Thompson 4 0-0 8, Sweet 2 0-0 4, T. Weilert 1 1-1 3, Moore 1 1-4 3, Holaday 1 0-0 2, Karn 1 0-0 2, Riley 1 0-0 2. Totals- 25 (4) 6-12 60.
Riv.: Perry 7 0-2 14, Butts 1 (1) 2-2 5, Gray 1 1-3 3, Keller 1 0-0 2, Winkel 1 0-0 2. Totals- 11 (1) 3-7 26.
Rebounding: HHS- 28 (Moore 7, Boswell 4, Snepp 4); Riv.- 22 (Perry 6, Winkel 4, Meers 3).
Assists: HHS- 18 (Boswell 7, A. Weilert 3); Riv.- 9 (Butts 2, Gray 2, Winkel 2).
Turnovers: HHS- 8; Riv.- 33.