CENTERBURG — Opening night for two area rivals became a one-sided affair in a hurry.
The Centerburg Trojans jumped out to a 19-2 lead over the Highland Scots in the first quarter of Saturday’s girls basketball game, going on to win, 62-34.
Centerburg (1-0) returned everyone from last year’s roster, and it showed. The Trojans played like a well-oiled machine, setting plays and finding open shots.
And when they found them, they hit them.
Centerburg shot 42 percent from the field in the game, including going 5-for-10 from the three-point line in the first half.
“Basketball’s an interesting game,” said Centerburg head coach Todd Nauman. “With all the practice, it still comes down to seeing, comprehending and executing. That changes every game depending on who the opponent is, or your level of mental toughness.”
“That slow start kills you,” said Highland head coach Betsy Morrison. “It’s hard to dig out of that. At the same time, we’re a young, inexperienced team. ... We don’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
Highland (0-1) will have its day in the sun, but the Scots were simply outmatched on Saturday. They shot 21 percent (8-for-38) from the field, with Heather Thacker hitting five of the eight field goals to lead the Scots with 15 points. Thacker also led her team with nine rebounds.
Nauman’s biggest complaint was that his Trojans need to work on his team being too aggressive.
“We sent them to the foul line 29 times,” said Nauman. “Moving your feet on defense, not reaching with your hands so much.”
Centerburg, one of the tallest teams in the Mid-Buckeye Conference, demonstrated it can score from anywhere. Megan Altizer, Mackenzie Stoyle, Claire Harvey and Stacy Fielding each hit 3-pointers in the first period, with Stoyle hitting two.
Stoyle, last season’s MBC Player of the Year, led all scorers with 18 points. Harvey added 12.
Defensively, Centerburg dominated inside and prevented any easy shots. It was at the 7:04 mark in the second period when Highland hit its first field goal, a jumper by Thacker that ended up being the only field goal of the half.
Altizer completed the first half dominance with a jumper at the buzzer.
“From top to bottom, I think we came out very timid,” said Morrison. “Centerburg got in our face early. They pressured us. We struggled to get into our offense in general.”
Ahead 30-10 at halftime, the only change in Centerburg’s strategy was to let up on the three-point shooting. Thacker scored five consecutive points, and it appeared that the Scots would attempt to claw their way back in the game. However, Centerburg had a 16-4 run in the second half, with Stoyle and Harvey combining for 16 points to give their team a 57-27 lead.
“I’m looking for hunger for four quarters, plain and simple” said Nauman. “These kids have been playing. They know what the expectations are.”
Highland will look for its first win Thursday at Ridgedale. Centerburg, meanwhile, prepares for its first MBC showdown with rival Fredericktown.
“With those two big kids inside,” said Nauman, refering to Thacker and Sam Zuber, “we’re looking at the same kind of thing going into the game against Fredericktown. That part of it is good, but we still have some things to work on.”