The Lady Lions struggled to get their offense going early and failed to score more than seven points in a quarter until the fourth
After directing a deep postseason run and a 24-3 record the year before at the helm of the Crocker Lady Lions, Nancy Ward made her first appearance back in the Lions' gym Thursday after taking the reins of the Stoutland Lady Tigers.
Her Tigers defeated the Lions 47-34 but she admittedly felt a little off center even as some of her players from last year's squad came over after the game to do some catching up.
“It's the first time back and it feels strange but it is what it is,” Ward said.
The Crocker (3-13) girls had to try to catch up during the game as well.
Through the first three quarters, they failed to score in the double figures in a single frame and reached 11 points total with 2:06 left before the half on a three from Sadie Bomar.
Crocker was down 25-11 at the half.
Lady Lions coach Mike Austin said his team always seems to take a while to get going but Thursday's case was more extreme than usual.
“Eleven points, in a high school basketball game, that's just not enough points to have,” Austin said. “You're not going to be very successful doing that.”
It may have come too late but Crocker's offense woke up in the fourth quarter and opened up on a 9-3 run.
All told the Lions outscored the Tigers 16-3 in the quarter.
With 1:51 remaining in the third quarter Stoutland had a 27-point lead but after a putback by Kaitlyn Gambill with 2:31 left in the game Crocker had trimmed the Tigers' lead to 44-30.
“We got within 13 or 14 and called a timeout and I just kind of let them know, Hey, we're still in this thing,” Austin said. “We just have to do a better job of coming out and playing four quarters of basketball. Right now, that's a struggle for us.”
Granted, Stoutland had switched out of the press defense it had been playing at that stage in the game.
“We wanted to come in and really work on our press and try to utilize [the press] and get it ready for district time,” Ward said. “I thought we did a good job playing it tonight and did some good things out of it. When we got out of the press we went a little flat on the defensive end. We've got to take care of that defensive intensity and make sure it stays up at all times.”
The Tigers had two players with double digits in points scored – Skylar Shepard (13) and Tekera Stradt (10) – along with another pair who weren't too far behind in Breanna Sein and Melanie Hubbs (8 apiece).
“That's a big key for us,” Ward said. “We have multiple weapons and multiple kids that can score and work it around and get the best shot possible. Our theme is, we try to work inside out. We try to go into our post players first, get paint touches and then work from there. I thought we did a good job establishing that early on.”
Stoutland's Sarah Pribble and Rebecca Looney also scored with five and three points, respectively.
For Crocker, Sadie Bomar led the team in scoring with nine points. Morgan Wall (7), Zoe Wilson (6), Macey Connell (5), Lindsey Parrish (3), Kaitlyn Gambill (2) and Kelsie Shoemaker (2) also scored.
“We're making progress,” Austin said. “I know sometimes it's hard to see in the scores but the girls have made some big strides this year so far. We're certainly a lot better of a ball club than we were at the beginning of the season.”