TOWANDA — With a little less than a second to go in Friday's game against visiting Andale, Circle junior Adam Ronnebaum stuck his hand out and neatly corralled a pass. He wrapped the ball up in his arms as the buzzer sounded, ending the game.
That steal meant nothing to the final result — Circle defeated Andale 48-32 — but it was defense like that which flummoxed Andale all night.
"Our defense was the difference tonight," Circle coach Burt Helmer said of his team, which improved to 5-0 and forced 22 turnovers. "It's the placement, the coordination of five guys knowing what their assignment is, based on where their ball and the man is."
That Andale committed so many turnovers frustrated Indians coach Jeff Buchanan, along with their 13-of-43 shooting. They were 2 of 19 from three-point range.
"Two things I said to them, 'You have that many turnovers and you miss that many open shots, Circle's not going to let you win with that,' " said Buchanan, whose team is 1-3. "We've got plenty to work on, plenty to work on."
Part of that frustration is because Buchanan considers the Indians a strong shooting team.
"Oh yeah, we're much, much better than this," he said. "We'll go through spurts, but we didn't have any spurts tonight. We want them to keep shooting, it's the only way."
Andale established a presence inside early with 6-foot-6 senior Dylan Hawkins, who had six points and four rebounds in the first quarter.
But in the second period, Circle's Jordan Phillips, a 6-5 senior, dominated. He scored nine of his game-high 18 points in the second period. Hawkins finished with 11 points, eight rebounds.
"That was huge," Phillips said of the second quarter. "Lately we haven't been hitting our inside shots, and it sparked us."
He finished with five steals, two blocked shots and eight rebounds.
Circle led 23-18 at the half, and Buchanan felt fortunate.
"We had 10 turnovers the first half, and, I can remember in my head, six baskets that we were not guarding somebody," he said. "We didn't take a charge on one when he was dribbling right at us. That's six plus 10 turnovers. Yeah, we felt lucky."
Andale's offense failed to surface in the second half, though, and Circle gradually pulled away by hitting 10 of 15 second-half shots. The Thunderbirds were 20 of 33 from the field.
Andale (1-1, 1-3) 6 12 5 9 — 32 Circle (2-0, 5-0) 10 13 11 14 —48
ANDALE: Bogner 2, Hawkins 11, Mobley 3, Meyer 5, Kihle 5, Wright 8. Totals 13 (2) 4-7 32.
CIRCLE: Gardinier 3, Warren 5, Phillips 18, Tunnell 10, Ronnebaum 8, Kirkpatrick 4. Totals 20 (2) 6-15 48.