For the majority of the 32 minutes in Tuesday’s girls basketball game against Kapaun Mount Carmel, South point guard Ericka Mattingly had a defender staring into her face inches away.
Kapaun coach Billy Graf designed a box-and-one defense the day before the game and the Crusaders executed it well, holding Mattingly without a field goal and to one point.
But the South junior did not allow not touching the ball on offense to affect her game, as she locked down Sammie Bachrodt to help the Titans pull away for a 42-32 victory.
South (7-1), the No. 2-ranked team in Class 6A, holds an early advantage in the City League race over the Crusaders (6-2), No. 2 in 5A.
“It’s my job to get Ericka focused on rising to that kind of challenge now,” South coach Antwain Scales said. “At the next level, a box-and-one is just a man guarding you with strenuous defense. She’s got to learn to fight through that.”
Mattingly was never a factor offensively, but keyed the charge where the Titans took control of the game in the third quarter.
Bachrodt had scored 11 points and accounted for 18 of Kapaun’s 20 points in the first half, as the Crusaders built a 20-19 halftime lead.
Mattingly held Bachrodt to just one shot attempt, a miss, in the third quarter and cut off Kapaun’s main production. Without Bachrodt, Kapaun struggled on offense and failed to score in the third quarter as South jetted out for a 31-20 lead.
“I had to think about it a bit,” Mattingly said of Kapaun’s defense. “If I wasn’t going to get it done on offense, then I felt the least I could do is help out my team on defense. I had to contribute somehow.”
After losing to Andover Central last week at Koch Arena, Kapaun’s offense was once again exposed against an elite defense. And once again Graf knew exactly where the problems began.
Kapaun’s off-ball movement was very sparse, which allows an already effective South defense clamp down even harder. Then it became hard for ball handlers to find passing lanes, which compounded the problem.
“Then the girls quit trusting that it’s going to work and it snowballs on us,” Graf said. “They think our offense isn’t working anymore and it all starts with us standing around on the wings.”
Bachrodt produced 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists, but the rest of the Crusaders finished with 19 points on 21.8 percent shooting (7 of 32).
That had a lot to do with South’s defense, as it eliminated Kapaun’s bread-and-butter of driving and kicking out to its shooters perched in corners and wings. South’s Kendrian Elliott affected nearly every Kapaun shot attempt in the lane.
Elliott was also crucial in the third quarter, scoring eight of her game-high 16 points to help South win the quarter 12-0 to essentially clinch the game.
After losing last week to Andover Central, Elliott, who also had 10 rebounds, said South was determined not to let the same mistakes cost the team another shot at a win.
“I feel like our team always bounces back from adversity pretty well,” Elliott said. “We work together real well and I think this helped us regain a lot of our confidence back.”
Losing back-to-back games could be considered a setback for most top-end teams, but Graf, in his first season at Kapaun, is confident the last two games will be more beneficial for the Crusaders in the long run than some of their victories.
“I’m happier after these last two games than I have been after some of our wins,” Graf said. “Those teams that we just played are good. They’re really good, but so are we. I think we’re finding that out.”
KAPAUN: Born 3, Monty 3, Hagan 7, Bachrodt 13, Lickkteig 0, Hastings 2, Roulston 4, Dreiling 0, Harpel 0.
SOUTH: Mattingly 1, Jobe 4, Ivy 0, Rogers 10, Elliott 16, Dodson 7, Callins 4, Pittman 0.