By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Eastern Mennonite found a simple yet effective method for beating Stonewall Jackson in Friday night's nondistrict girls basketball game.
The visiting Flames decided late in the first quarter that they weren't going to let scrappy junior point guard Emily Jordan single-handedly keep the Generals within striking distance, so Eastern Mennonite coach Jolene Kratz called for a box-and-1 on Jordan for the remainder of the game. The move worked flawlessly for the Flames, who rolled to a 60-25 victory.
Jordan ended the night with nine points to lead Stonewall, but outside of an eight-point performance by sophomore Cheyanne Crigger, the Generals couldn't find the offensive output to keep up with Eastern Mennonite.
"That goes back to our inexperience," Generals coach Jeff Burner of a Stonewall roster littered with players who are seeing significant varsity experience for the first time. "We didn't know how to handle it. We were trying to draw things up, but this team is so inexperienced that if you haven't practiced it, they're not going to be able to execute it."
Stonewall Jackson (0-3) managed to survive a handful of early turnovers against the Flames' full-court pressure to take a 5-3 lead when Jordan hit a runner in the lane, was fouled and completed the 3-point play with 4:30 left in the first period.
Eastern Mennonite (2-2) answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard Laura D'Agostino and freshman forward Lauren Weaver to take a 9-5 lead with 3:50 left in the quarter before the Flames unveiled their defensive switch just over a minute later.
The move to the box-and-1 sent the Generals scrambling for another go-to scorer, and Stonewall was held without another point until Crigger hit a deep jumper from the wing with 4:45 to play in the second period. By then Eastern Mennonite had taken a 22-7 lead as the Flames were able to turn 10 first-half Stonewall turnovers into easy baskets in transition.
The Flames tallied eight steals in the first half alone and finished with 11 for the game.
"Emily Jordan is a great player, and she can move quickly. We just decided ... she's their bread and butter and we're just going to try to take that out of the equation and see what they can do then," Kratz said. "We just had some great energy from our defense. Whenever you get steals and make a good defensive stop you feel like 'alright, let's go.'"
Stonewall was able to trim a few points off the deficit before halftime with a 7-3 run to close out the second period. Crigger started the short spurt with a baseline jumper with 2:10 remaining, and Jordan got lose for a pair of buckets in the final minute, including a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that cut Eastern Mennonite's lead to 26-14 going into halftime.
The Flames scored on their first three possessions of the third period to extend their lead to 16, but Stonewall was able to hang around thanks to a pair of buckets by junior Kayla Miller (six points) and two long jump shots by Crigger in the frame. The Generals trailed 38-23 going into the final period.
"One of the things that I expressed to some of my older kids, was that I thought the sophomore played with the least amount of fear," Burner said of Crigger. "Now, she plays way too fast right now ... but I'm going to tell you what -- she doesn't play scared. And I think that makes a difference.
"I thought my bench played a lot harder and a lot scrappier on defense," he added. "I think they were the ones that brought us back. It was 12 [point deficit] at the half, and then they scored like six straight. Then I subbed those kids in and I thought that group busted their butts."
Any slim hope that Stonewall had of a comeback bid was eliminated quickly in the fourth quarter, as Eastern Mennonite outscored the Generals 22-2 over the final eight minutes.
Stonewall hit just 1 of 15 shots in the frame, and finished the game with an 11-for-55 (20 percent) mark from the field. The Flames hit 9 of 13 shots in the final quarter and ended the night shooting 37.9 percent (22 for 58) from the field.
Flames senior Alex Black -- who missed most of the first half with foul trouble -- scored 11 points in the fourth period and finished with a game-high 16. Weaver added 14 points, while D'Agostino chipped in 10 for Eastern Mennonite. All but one of the Flames' 10 players scored in the victory.
"Tonight that was our goal -- that we needed to play consistent, good basketball all night long, as a team no matter who it is," Kratz said. "It was a total team effort. All 10 of them just really put their hearts out there and everybody did something good tonight."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD