Phoenix pressure stymies Bulldogs
FARMINGDALE -- The Spruce Mountain and Hall-Dale girls basketball teams went at one another furiously last season, splitting a pair of games as they set the standard for play in the Mountain Valley Conference.
They picked up where they left off in Saturday night´s season opener, albeit with a number of fresh faces in each starting lineup. In the end, Spruce Mountain forced too many turnovers (37) as they pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 54-39 victory.
The visiting Phoenix took the lead at the end of the first half and never gave it up although Hall-Dale pulled to within a point midway in the third quarter. Spruce Mountain sophomore Kailee Newcomb scored a game-high 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter while teammate Emily Keene, another sophomore, added 13.
"Even though we´re young, I don´t like to play that youth card," Spruce Mountain coach Gavin Kane said. "We´re confident in our abilities. A lot of our sophomore class got pretty significant time as freshmen last year."
Senior Natasha Brown led the Bulldogs with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, while junior Allison Crockett hauled down 17 rebounds.
"I started last year but this year it´s changed dramatically," Brown said. "I´m not used to having a younger team. But it´s coming along good and this isn´t the last you´ve seen of us."
The Phoenix threatened to run the Bulldogs out of their own gym in the first quarter as they pressured the ball full-court and jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But Hall-Dale hung tough. Following a timeout, Hall-Dale coach Brandon Terrill switched defenses from man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone and it flustered the Phoenix. Brown scored nine points as the Bulldogs finished the quarter with a 12-0 run to take a two-point lead at the break.
"It looked for a minute there like they were really going to pull away," Terrill said. "So I was really proud of the way our kids settled down and chipped away at it."
Hall-Dale ran its lead to six (22-16) when Brown banked in a 3 from the top of the circle but the lead was short-lived. Newcomb scored twice as the Phoenix closed the half with an 8-0 run to take a 27-24 lead, one they never relinquished.
The Bulldogs forced 21 Spruce Mountain turnovers with a combination of full- and half-court pressure, but they were still minus 16 in the turnover department.
"That´s our philosophy," Kane said. "More times than not we´re going to try to go at it with a lot of full-court pressure for 32 minutes."
It was still a game when the Bulldogs trailed 45-39 with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left, but the Phoenix spread the floor, made a couple of layups and converted their free throws.
"This is our first game and we´re going to learn from that," Brown said.
Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638