By the time the St. Mary's girls basketball team reaches its post-season opener, coach Ryan Berg wants his team playing well on both ends of the court.
The Panthers, who entered the State Class 1A rankings at 15th Friday morning, had been coasting a bit on defense in its last few games, Berg said.
"Defense has been one of our strongpoints during much of this season," he said. "But the last few games, we weren't as intense as we needed to be."
With tournaments ten days away, Berg stressed defense this past week in practice in preparation for Sac City.
His team took the extra work to heart, as it stifled Sac City 41-23 here Friday night in a slow-paced defensive game.
The Panthers led from start to finish, taking a 10-7 lead after one quarter and a 19-14 lead at the half.
St. Mary's led 31-21 at the end of the third quarter. It clamped down even harder in the fourth, allowing just two Sac City points. The Indians had just three field goals in the first half.
"We played great defense, that's what I was most happy about," Berg said.
"We didn't give up many good looks to Sac City, so they were very patient," he added. "Offensively, we also did some nice things."
Panther senior Abby Richardson scored a game-high 17 points while fellow senior Janie Imming adding 11. Jess Lussman and Rylee Paterson each finished with five points.
"Abby led us tonight, but we've shown an ability to score well without her leading us," Berg said.
"Teams are starting to box and one Abby a lot, but Janie, Jess and others have stepped up their scoring," he added.
Having just finished homecoming week, the Panthers have another marquee game Tuesday night in Newell, when they meet 7th-ranked Newell-Fonda.
It could be a preview of a district final game in a couple weeks as the top-two girls teams in the Northwest Conference battle for supremacy.
Storm Lake 35
The Spencer girls basketball team made some clutch free throws down the stretch to pull out a closely contested 42-35 win on Friday night over Storm Lake.
The two teams duked it out the first three quarters with Spencer holding a slight advantage for much of the game. The first quarter ended with the Tigers ahead 13-10.
The Tornadoes regained the lead halfway through the second quarter but the Tigers charged back. As the final three seconds expired, Spencer nailed a three to take an 18-16 lead into half time.
The Tigers held onto their slim margin throughout the third quarter. Storm Lake fouled with three seconds left in the third and Spencer converted on the inbounds play to push its lead to 29-26.
Slone Masters swished a three-point shot to tie the game up at 29-29 to start the fourth quarter. The Tigers answered with a 7-0 run to take a more comfortable lead.
Storm Lake pulled within three in the last half of the fourth but Spencer kept its composure. The Tornadoes were forced to fouling in the final minute and a half.
Although the Tigers missed the front end of a couple one-and-one's, they pulled down an offensive board and defensively stepped up on the other end of the court to seal the win.
"We had opportunities but we just couldn't get our shots to fall," said Storm Lake head coach Stacey VanDerSloot. "Holding Spencer to 42 points was a big defensive success for us, though."
The last time the two teams squared off in December, the Tigers put up over 70 points.
Slone Masters led the Tornadoes with 14 points and Amanda Proczak put up 13 points.
Emily Wassom headed up the Tiger offensive effort with 15 points. Krista DeGeest chipped in 11 points and pulled down nine boards in the victory.
After a slow start, the Alta girls basketball team scored a convincing 68-49 victory over Schaller-Crestland last night.
The two teams battled throughout the first quarter. Through strong defense, the Wildcats earned the 16-12 lead at the end of the first eight minutes. However, the slim four-point lead wasn't enough to deter their opponent.
The Cyclones came out with a vengeance in the second quarter. Stepping up its defensive efforts and making effective use of its press, Alta headed into half time with a nine-point cushion, a 36-25 lead.
The Wildcats couldn't scramble back into the game as the Cyclones only gave up seven points in the third quarter while adding 29 points to their own score for a 54-32 lead.