SPARTA — The first game of the season always brings up a lot of questions for coaches. How will my team react when playing an opponent? Who will we count on to score? Will my defense be able to slow down the opponent’s offense?
Centerburg girls basketball coach Todd Nauman may have had those questions Saturday, but he found out the answers in a hurry.
His Trojans got off to an explosive start from the opening tip and cruised to a 55-35 victory over host Highland.
“I think we’ve got some kids who can put the ball through the basket again this year,” Nauman said. “I think we moved the ball well enough to get some open shots early.”
The Trojans exploded to a 19-2 lead in the first quarter thanks to the strong play of Stacy Fielding and Kendall Compton. Fielding scored 11 of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter and Compton added six as the Trojans blew open the game early.
Turnovers had killed the Scots in the first quarter as they committed 10 in the first eight minutes. That, and the fact the Trojans hit on 6 of their first 14 shots, made it look like a long night was in store for the Scots.
The onslaught continued early in the second quarter, as Centerburg was able to open up a 33-11 lead. But, that’s when Highland’s Heather Thacker took over inside. Thacker scored six of her team-high 14 points as Highland went on a 10-0 run to get back in the game.
“In the second quarter, we had a good run. To come back after getting down like that was nice,” said Highland coach Galen Chapman. “We were able to get them to call a timeout. I told the kids to just keep plugging away and we’d be OK. They did a good job.”
The Trojans were able to stop the bleeding quickly, and with some strong defense and good free-throw shooting (22 of 28), able to keep the Scots at bay. Highland was never able to get closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
“In the second quarter, we went sloppy for a little while, but we were able to outscore them by five in the third quarter. We were able to contain things well enough we were not desperate,” Nauman said. “One thing I like about this group is we’re pretty level-headed. We don’t get rattled.”
Defense was the name of the game for both teams in the second half. Centerburg made just 4 of 18 shots in the second half, while Highland could make just 6 of 25. The Trojans did make 12 of 15 free-throw attempts in the second half to pull away with the victory.
“We did not turn the ball over as much and we played a little better defense (in the second half),” Chapman said. “This was a good learning experience for us. Hopefully, we will learn from this and get better.”
Fielding added six rebounds and three assists to go along with her 22 points to pace the Trojans. Compton finished with 14 points, while Mikaela Weldy had seven points and Lindsey Daniels pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Highland was led by Thacker, who scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Katie Davies added eight points, and Abby Garcia had six points and three assists.
Centerburg made it a clean sweep on the night with a 27-17 victory in the junior varsity game.
Torrie Purdy poured in 12 points to pace the Trojans. Alyssa Van Dyke, McKenzie Altizer and Danielle Wininger each added three.
Highland was led by Paige Cole, who had seven points, and Rachel Best, who had four.
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