MONTGOMERY — Mercy McAuley High School girls basketball coach Nick Baltimore says his squad prides itself on its defense.
Lakota East got an up-close-and-personal view of the Wolves’ defense Tuesday night and found the vantage point not to its liking in a 51-14 Division I sectional defeat at Sycamore.
“No, that’s the thing we do. We hang out hat on our defense,” Baltimore said of his squad’s suffocating effort. “We talked the last couple days about guarding full court, causing turnovers and getting some easy baskets, and I felt we did a good job in all those phases tonight.”
GIRLS BASKETBALL COVERAGE
The Thunderhawks opened the season by falling to Mercy McAuley 48-26, and any hope of a reversal of fortune ended early as the sixth-seeded Wolves streaked out to a 13-3 first-quarter edge.
The second period was a nightmare for East, which managed only three shots, turned the ball over eight times and scored only one point in falling behind 27-4 at the break.
Baltimore said he was worried about the 18th-seeded Thunderhawks throwing some exotic looks at his squad, but the great start eased his concerns.
“It is an easier game when you make shots,” Baltimore said of the Wolves’ 11-of-24 first-half shooting. “Our kids play hard and they play together. We were afraid they were going to come out and throw some junk like a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two, so it was nice to jump out early and make them play us normal.”
While Tuesday’s loss was an obvious disappointment, first-year East coach Dan Wallace sees brighter days ahead for his Thunderhawks.
Wallace said the slow start was a back-breaker, but his team’s inability to score overall was too much to overcome.
“We had a good game plan, but we just couldn’t score,” said Wallace, the former coach at McAuley. “You have to give them a lot of credit defensively. We didn’t even get a lot of shots off. Mercy McAuley did a good job containing the dribble and taking away the drive. I thought we played hard defensively, but you have to make shots.”
East won a total of 11 games the past two years, and Wallace sees a lot of upside after finishing the season 8-15.
“I have to say how proud I am of our seniors,” he said. “They set the foundation for the success this program will have in the next couple years. They have changed the way we practice. They changed the way we approach the game. The seniors started something. These seniors really changed a lot and people won’t see them do it, but we will be better long term from their effort.”
East trailed 9-3 with after a Lily Rupp free throw in the first quarter and didn’t tally another field goal until Grace Honigford nailed a triple with four minutes left in the third quarter.
The score was 37-4 at that point and the Wolves led 46-12 after three quarters before the game concluded with a running clock.
Honigford’s four points led East. Rupp and Logan Fox, both seniors, each finished with three points, while classmate Jessica Motley had a team-high three rebounds.
Baltimore was surprised East jumped into this sectional at the tournament draw and said his girls used it as motivation.
“We were kind of surprised, but he does have a little bit of a background with some of these girls,” Baltimore said. “The girls took it a little personal. The girls wanted to come out and show them it was a mistake to jump into this sectional.”
The Wolves shot 22-of-47 from the field, 7-of-22 from beyond the arc, and pounded East on the boards 31-13 to improve to 18-4.
Alex Smith led Mercy McAuley with 12 points, while Lexi Fleming chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals. Cecilia Horn snagged nine boards.
The Wolves will meet eighth-seeded Loveland in a 7:30 p.m. district semifinal Monday at Sycamore.
Mercy McAuley 13-14-19-5—51
Lakota East 3-1-8-2—14
MERCY MCAULEY (18-4): Lexi Fleming 4 0 10; Isabell Dorr 3 0 7; Alex Smith 5 0 12; Cecilia Horn 2 0 4; Jenna Schoster 3 0 7; Kassidy Tensing 2 0 5; Ashley Tudor 3 0 6. Totals: 22-0-51
LAKOTA EAST (8-15): Maddy Bley 0 1 1; Lily Rupp 1 1 3; Jordan Stanley 0 1 1; Logan Fox 1 0 3; Grace Honigford 1 1 4; Brie Harris 1 0 2. Totals: 4-4-14
3-pointers: M 7 (Fleming 2, Smith 2, Dorr, Schoster, Tensing), L 2 (Fox, Honigford)