By Rob Potter
LAKE HUNTINGTON February 18, 2005 Going into Tuesday nights non-league girls basketball game, one had to presume that the Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs would be fired up for the contest.
The game versus the Tri-Valley Lady Bears would be the final regular season home game for the Lady Bulldogs. And depending on the seedings for the upcoming Section IX Class B Tournament, it was possible that the game would be the last for SW on its home court until the 2005-2006 season.
So it was understandable that the Lady Bulldogs would play with all the heart, intensity and talent they had in order to end the evening with a victory. What was a bit surprising, however, was the way in which SW recorded a win.
The Lady Bulldogs utilized their intensity and a smothering full-court press to take control of the game in the first half. SW grabbed a 17-7 lead in the opening quarter and held a 42-9 advantage at halftime. As a result of that stellar first half performance, SW rolled to a 58-25 victory over the Lady Bears.
T-V had difficulty breaking the Lady Bulldogs press in the first half. The Lady Bears committed several turnovers, which led to easy baskets for SW.
In one sequence which depicted how the first two quarters unfolded, SWs Heather Lander and a teammate trapped a T-V player near halfcourt. Lander then stole the ball from the Lady Bear and passed the ball upcourt to her sister Sarah Lander, who dribbled to the basket and scored a layup. The hoop gave SW a 9-2 advantage with 4:14 left in the first period.
We did not handle their press well at all, T-V Coach Karen Furman said. Their defense was very strong, almost stifling. We have been averaging 56 points a game this season and tonight we only had 25.
In addition to its excellent defensive effort, SW (13-6) was helped by a balanced offensive attack.
Three Lady Bulldogs scored in double figures in the contest. Junior forward April Ackermann led the team with 16 points, senior center Autumn Darder netted 11 points and freshman forward Sarah Lander recorded 10 points.
Ackermann and Sarah Lander each recorded a double-double. Ackermann grabbed 13 rebounds to go with her 16 points and Lander pulled down 14 rebounds to complement her 10 points.
In addition, Sarah Lander and her sister, Heather, a senior point guard, each dished out five assists on the evening.
Junior guard Kate Fanning added eight points for SW.
Senior forward Lacey Moore and senior guard Shauna Murry led the Lady Bears offense by scoring eight points apiece.
We really did a great job on the boards in the first half, SW Coach Ron Bernhardt said. And we had a grade A defensive effort tonight.
SW Assistant Coach Kurt Scheibe Jr. noted that the Lady Bulldogs excelled in two particular areas of the game.
We had two objectives entering this game, he said. We wanted to limit our turnovers and limit their second chance hoops. Except for a couple of occasions, we were able to do that tonight.
Bernhardt was pleased to get a win in the Lady Bulldogs penultimate game of the regular season. (SW was scheduled to travel to Chester last night and play the Lady Hambletonians in a non-league contest.)
Were happy with a 13 and 6 record, he commented. If we beat Chester, well have a winning percentage of 700. As a coach you always want to have at least a .500 record and if its a little higher, thats even better.
Its been a joy to work with these kids this season, Bernhardt added.
The defeat dropped T-Vs record to 13-7 and with the regular season complete, the Lady Bears will now focus on the upcoming Section IX Class C Tournament.
Suffering a 33-point loss was obviously not how Furman and her players wanted to end the regular season. But she is confident the Lady Bears will quickly put the defeat behind them and concentrate on postseason play.
We still have a very good team, she said. We will be OK for sectionals.