P-C girls’ basketball: Out of reach
By BRANDON HURLEY
The heart-stopping moment came with 15 seconds left, but proved to be the biggest shot of the night.
Samantha Brown’s game-tying corner three – her fourth of the game – sent a roller coaster RVC matchup into overtime, which allowed Glidden-Ralston’s quick and athletic defense to takeover, guiding the Wildcats to a 66-59 road win over Paton-Churdan, Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Despite freshman Danielle Hoyle’s best efforts down the stretch (the 6’2” center tallied eight gigantic points in the fourth quarter, including six straight), the Paton-Churdan Rockets (2-2) fell short in what could’ve been a key victory.
That final momentum swing was a culmination of grit and persistence as G-R erased what once was 18-point first half deficit, holding the Rockets to just a single point and no made field goals in the extra period.
The Wildcats’ swarming second half full court press flustered P-C ball handlers, forcing them into errant passes or quick shots, a switch head coach Cole Corson went to at the half time break. An 11-point halftime P-C lead (34-23) quickly vanished in the third as G-R took advantage.
“We started out in a man press looking to trap. Based on their press break we switched it to a zone press and we adjusted some people,” Corson said. “Normally, we do it a little differently and we talked about it at half time, taking away certain passing lanes and we’d have to sprint back. When they did beat it, we had to make sure we were sprinting back to take away that backside pass.
We took away the middle and it started to slow things up.”
The press was clearly a defensive set the Rockets weren’t ready to handle, as G-R used an 18-7 run, including back-to-back threes from Bridgette Daniel (14 points, six rebounds, five assists), to tie it at 39. The second half looked eerily similar to P-C’s first two quarters, but with the roles reversed.
“We have to handle the ball better,” Paton-Churdan head coach Tom Kennedy said. “We showed some flashes where we handled it well but then we had lapses. They were trying to get us to take quick shots, but when we stopped doing that and tried getting it inside, that’s when we started to come back.”
Kennedy took a moment to allow his girls to learn from G-R’s athletic press. It clearly rattled an offense that was clicking in the first half, as it forced P-C into a staggering 31 turnovers.
“(It) sped us up and it forced some turnovers. Then we started taking quick shots that weren’t layups,” Kennedy said. “I would’ve been fine with that, but we started shooting some deep shots. We got behind when we weren’t pulling it out and working it inside. We were patient when we came back on them.”
P-C built an 18-point first half lead thanks to advantageous three-point shooting and missed G-R layups and turnovers. Six Rockets scored in the opening six minutes, including three-pointers from a trio of players as they built a 30-12 lead. P-C made four first half threes but just one in the second half.
Once G-R tied it late in the third thanks to an 18-7 run and three Daniel long balls, a clinic of high-quality basketball ensued.
The two Rolling Valley Conference rivals played tug-of-war the remainder of the way, trading various forms of haymakers. As a team, G-R drilled six second half threes, helping complete the miraculous comeback. A persistence to stick with the offensive game plan paid off.
Daniel and Brown (17 points) each hit four from deep and played pivotal roles in the second half. Add that in with Hannah Whitver’s 10 second half points and it was a perfect recipe for the game-changing run.
“If we can make threes with our quickness, we are tough to stop,” Corson said. “If we can shoot the ball well and they are in a zone, they have to come out of it. And if they go man, I think we are athletic enough to create some mismatches. Being able to shoot the ball is huge for us.”
No squad could separate themselves late in the third or in the fourth, though G-R did hold a five point lead with 3:30 left. That’s when Hoyle, who finished with a tremendous double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds), went to work, scoring on three straight possessions to give P-C the lead. Junior Megan Carey’s three-pointer off Hoyle’s missed and-one free throw gave the Rockets a four point lead with 90 seconds to play, capping a thunderous 9-0 run.
The freshman center’s presence four games into the season has been the difference in P-C’s early season success. She’s averaging a double-double in her first varsity action, scoring 13 points per game while pulling in a RVC-leading 10.5 boards per game. She adds another dimension to the Rocket offense and allows better spacing for their athletic guards.
“She does a great job for us. In the first half, I thought she really controlled the boards,” Kennedy said. “In the second half, she was getting stuck on the baseline but when she went out and got the boards, it started to help us.
She helps us inside and she opens shots for us. We have to be a little more patient, work it inside to her and Jenna (Beyers) then kick it outside. We have good three-point shooters but we have to learn the rhythm of it.”
Megan Carey (10 points) was the only other Rocket in double figures, but five athletes scored at least six points, providing a balanced offensive output.
The fairly quiet extra period was kick-started by a G-R bucket followed by a steal and fast break layup. It seemed as though the Wildcats’ pressure had finally broke P-C’s will, outscoring the Rockets 9-1 for the victory. The emotional win moved G-R to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play with their lone loss to undefeated Exira-EHK.
The loss dropped P-C to .500 on the year, but yet another game in which the Rockets made more than 45 percent of their three-point attempts. In Three of their four contests so far, the Rockets have not shot worse than 45 percent from three. Though they blew a big lead, they did find enough to force overtime and did not let the disappointment snowball into a blow out loss.
“Really, we could’ve had a much bigger lead in the first half if we rebounded better,” Kennedy said. “We have to handle the ball better. Coming into the year, I said how we handle the pressure and our rebounding would determine how good we are. That’s what we have to shore up. Some times we get lost on shooters, too.
Though they shot fairly well, knowing when to take a long three and when to work the ball inside to Hoyle or Beyers, who came into the game averaging 12.3 points per game, pouring in nine points to go with four boards Tuesday.
“It’s hard to teach them (exactly) what a good shot is because they are good shots, but I’d rather them have a touch inside then go back out,” Kennedy said. “That’s something we are learning.”
The Rockets are on the road Friday, Dec. 15 against West Harrison then take a long trek north to take on West Bend-Mallard, an hour-and-a-half drive, Monday, Dec. 18 before returning home, Tuesday, Dec. 19 for an RVC tilt against sixth-ranked Exira-EHK, who has made three straight state tournament appearances.