By Rob Potter
ELDRED December 11, 2007 There is an old sports adage about defense winning championships.
On Friday night, the Livingston Manor Lady Wildcats proved once again how true that saying is.
Manor used an aggressive, press defense against the host Eldred Lady Yellowjackets during the championship game of the Eldred Central School Girls’ Basketball Holiday Tournament.
That defensive effort led to many steals and turnovers which in turn led to many easy baskets for the Lady Wildcats.
Manor (3-0) grabbed a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game and went on to record a 45-14 victory.
The Lady Wildcats outscored Eldred (0-2) 18-5 in the first quarter. Guards Natalia Cruz and Marissa Diescher combined to score 15 of Manor’s 18 points in the stanza. Fittingly, Cruz scored the last basket of the frame after stealing the ball from one of the Lady Yellowjackets and racing downcourt for a layup.
Manor extended its advantage to 28-8 at halftime.
Diescher finished with a game-high 20 points, while Cruz scored 12 points. Megan Ellison added six points for the Lady Wildcats.
Gabby Westfall was Eldred’s top scorer with eight points. Teammate Megan Kean netted three points.
While the Lady Wildcats used the press, Eldred utilized another defensive ploy in an attempt to slow down the Manor offense.
“We used a triangle-in-two defense to stop [Marissa] Diescher and [Megan] Ellison,” Eldred Coach Frank Kean said. “But [Manor Coach] Kevin [Clifford] came up with a third scorer in [Natalia] Cruz.
“Manor has a good team with a lot of talented kids,” Frank Kean added.
The veteran coach noted that his team is very young. Megan Kean and Westfall are the only seniors on the squad, which also includes three sophomores and a freshman.
“They are making a great effort and I expect them to improve as the season moves along,” Frank Kean said of his players.
Manor Coach Kevin Clifford concurred with Kean.
“Eldred really worked hard tonight,” Clifford said. “They are a young team, but they will improve.”
As for the Lady Wildcats, Clifford was very pleased with their performance.
“I thought the defense was great,” he said. “We used the press and got some easy baskets off it.”
Clifford also praised his players for adjusting to Eldred’s defense.
“They tried to shut down Marissa [Diescher] and Megan [Ellison] with the triangle-in-two, but Natalia [Cruz] really stepped up for us,” he commented. “Her points made a big difference.
“We want to be a well-balanced team offensively and we did that tonight,” Clifford added.