HOWARD — The Fredericktown High School girls basketball team is learning what it takes to win on a game-by-game basis. After having Utica on the ropes Thursday, the Freddies defeated the East Knox Bulldogs, 40-37, on Saturday in Mid-Buckeye Conference action.
“As well as we played on Thursday night when we had a great chance to knock off Utica, I was fearing some sort of letdown,” said Fredericktown (4-3, 2-3 MBC) coach Wes Elifritz. “We came out and hit some shots early, and East Knox hit some shots early. They really surprised me with their ability to knock down a lot of open shots. At that point, we knew we were in for a game, and we kind of mentally broke down a little bit in those middle quarters. I give East Knox credit; they came to play today. In a battle like this, it is good to get out of here with a win.”
Both teams got off to a hot start, shooting a combined 10-of-21 in the first quarter, but when the Bulldogs (3-5, 1-4 MBC) went scoreless from the field in the final 12-plus minutes, it sealed their fate.
“This really hurts,” said East Knox coach Daryl Uhde. “We had home court; it was an MBC game. I knew it would be close because that’s just the way the MBC is. A couple of possessions went their way, and that’s just the way it goes.
“... I thought, for the most part, it was one of our better games. We played pretty good. There were some assignments we missed, and [Courtney] Briegel hit some 3s. It is just the little things.”
East Knox got the scoring going in the first quarter on a jumper by Brittany Dawson, but Lyndsay Briegel matched it for Fredericktown. Sierra Mazzaro then nailed a 3-pointer for the Bulldogs, only to have Briegel answer on the opposite end. That shot started a 12-4 run for the Freddies to end the quarter. Courtney Briegel hit a 3 of her own and Lyndsay added another bucket to make it a 14-9 game after one. Melissa Tindall scored a pair of buckets to keep East Knox in the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Emily Morris and Mazzaro opened the second quarter for East Knox, and the Bulldogs outscored the Freddies, who made just one basket from the field, 12-4 in the period. Hayley Gray added a pair of buckets for East Knox, while Courtney Briegel hit another 3 for Fredericktown. Gray’s second bucket of the quarter and a jumper by Bria Knight put East Knox ahead, 21-18, at the half.
“We’re still working on being a complete team over 32 minutes, especially on the road,” said Elifritz. “It seems like we pick one quarter to just kind of go in hiding, and that was this one. We had a lot of silly turnovers that didn’t even allow us to get a shot.”
Fredericktown came out firing in the third quarter, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Courtney Briegel, but a pair of 3s by Gray and a jumper by Morris kept East Knox in the lead. Gray’s 3 with 4:15 to go made it a five-point game, 29-24. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it was their last field goal of the game. The Freddies got back-to-back buckets by Tayler Carpenter and Lyndsay Briegel to pull within one in the final minute, but two free throws by Mazzaro put the lead back at three, 31-28, after three.
The fourth quarter was slow going for either team, with only Fredericktown scoring in the first four minutes — Lyndsay Briegel hit a jumper to make it a one-point game. Mazzaro hit a free throw to break the Bulldog scoring drought with 3:26 to play, but Fredericktown answered when Hope Huvler dished the ball to Brittany Jones, who was open on the outside. Jones nailed a 3-pointer to put the Freddies on top, 33-32. Courtney Briegel then hit her fifth 3 of the game to open the lead to four. From there, the teams traded free throws, and East Knox remained closed. Two shots by Mazzaro made it a one-point game with 15.4 seconds to play, but strong rebounding and two free throws by Courtney Briegel sealed the Freddies’ 40-37 win.
“Attacking on offense is a mentality,” Elifritz said. “I’ve still got girls I’m working on; they know they have the green light; it is just a matter of whether they are going to take that shot or not. Obviously, Courtney has had the green light her whole career and can shoot it, but I’m still working on some of the others.
“Brittany Jones is one of those. She stepped up in the fourth quarter and hit the biggest shot of the game. That gave us the lead we needed.”
Courtney Briegel finished with 18 points, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks for the Freddies, while her sister, Lyndsay, added 11 points and three assists. Huvler pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Mazzaro had 11 points, eight rebounds and two assists to lead East Knox, and Gray added 10 points, four assists and four steals. Morris added six points and four rebounds.
“We shot the ball better, especially in the first half,” said Uhde. “We shot almost 50 percent in the first half, but we only made three baskets in the second half. That’s what hurt us. ... We are searching for players to step up and you could see that today.”
In reserve action, East Knox improved to 5-1 with a 27-19 victory over Fredericktown. Kali Krownapple led the Bulldogs with nine points, and Bridget Dennis scored eight points. Lisa Earnest scored 14 points in the loss for Fredericktown.
East Knox is back in action Tuesday, traveling to Highland for a nonconference contest. Fredericktown, meanwhile, will prepare for Wednesday’s nonconference matchup with Clear Fork.
“This was big,” said Elifritz. “We’d like to think that this week was a turning point for us. We had a lot of different things that we implemented in practice. We showed that when we step up, our enthusiasm is there. I keep telling the girls the more they have fun and the more they don’t treat this like a job, the better they are going to play. The last two games they’ve done that, so to get a win is big after back-to-back losses. I’d like to think that we on the path to some good things after the new year.”