By Frank Rizzo
WEST POINT March 9, 2001 Sometimes, mused Eldred girls basketball coach Frank Kean, its better not to know your opponent.
Kean hadnt scouted Haldane, the perennial Section I girls Class D champ. He knew the Blue Devils would be a formidable foe, knew they had won four state Class D titles since 1989 the last coming in 2000.
Haldane was all he expected, and more.
It wouldnt have mattered what we knew about them, theyre an awesome, fundamentally sound team, Kean noted.
Tonight was the next level, and we werent ready for it, Kean said after Haldane beat his Yellow Jackets 57-38 in the opening round of the state basketball tournament Wednesday night at West Points Christl Arena.
The Blue Devils blitzed the stunned Yellow Jackets early, jumping out in front 15-2 after 4:11 and leading 23-6 after one quarter.
At first we were nervous, we were all afraid. We didnt know what to expect, admitted Eldred center Stacie Blaut. We thought theyd be bigger, but it doesnt matter how big they are, theyre awesome.
Senior guard Erin Donnelly agreed: Theyre fast, very fast. We were struggling at the beginning, but thats the way we usually start out. Only tonight we didnt get a chance to get back in.
We got frustrated and made too many turnovers, way over our average Kean said of the first half. Im disappointed that we didnt come out to play. Maybe having two tough games in a row hurt us.
Eldred had a tough 34-33 win over Sullivan West/Jeff-Youngsville in the Class D semifinal last Thursday and struggled to beat Roscoe in overtime in the final on Sunday.
The second quarter brought no relief as Haldane surged to a 40-12 halftime lead.
First-year Haldane coach Bill ONeill said he didnt expect his press to wreak the havoc it did.
Most teams Eldred faced wouldnt use it because of [Eldred ballhandler] Christine Lizzi, and I was surprised it worked as well as it did tonight, said ONeill, who replaced longtime coach Ken Thomas.
Eldred finally gained a semblance of itself in the third quarter and actually outscored the Blue Devils in the second half, 26-17.
With 1:53 left, Kean took out his starters, who received appreciative ovations from the Eldred side of the stands.
I was proud of the second half, Kean said. We never died and came out and played tough.
I told my team that Eldred [players] werent quitters, and we had to expect for them to come back ferociously, ONeill said. I think my girls expended so much physical and mental energy in the first half we were flat. Fortunately, we were able to stay even with them in the second half.
We knew itd be tough, said Lizzi, whose move back to Eldred after a two-year absence was a key in Eldreds turnaround. [Haldane] executed beautifully. I dont think were disappointed, we had a great season.
Eldred (204) was led by Donnellys 11 points. Loretta Wolff added seven while Lizzi and Becky Ryman has five each.
Stephanie Spear led Haldane (183) with 26 points.
One of his teams losses came against a Class A school, said ONeill. The others came against Class C powers, including the top-ranked state team, Dobbs Ferry.
Haldane had a 32-23 rebounding edge, 19-10 in the dominant first half. The Blue Devils shot 25/65 (38 percent) while Eldred was 11/41 (27 percent).