By KEVIN HARRIS
After a 20-day break from competition, the New Washington girls’ basketball team had a rough first half on Tuesday night at the Larkin Center.
But the Mustangs got their act together in the second half and won their 10th game of the season with a 49-35 victory over Providence.
It was a Coaches vs. Cancer game as the Pioneers showed their support for cancer research by wearing pink uniforms.
New Washington led only 19-18 at halftime, as it missed its first 10 shots of the game and ended up connecting on 7-of-25 field-goal attempts in the first half.
“We somewhat anticipated that to a degree since it was 20 days since we played our last game,” Mustangs’ coach Terry White said. “One of the things that we wanted to make sure that we were doing is being mentally focused, and we probably weren’t. We just seemed to be half a step slow on defense.”
Despite committing 14 turnovers and shooting 7-of-17 from the field in the opening half, Pioneers’ coach Brad Burden was pleased with his team’s position at intermission.
“I thought they played a nice half and played really hard. We played great defense,” Burden said. “But I knew New Wash’s run was coming. My hope was we could sustain that run and keep within striking defense.”
Providence (8-6) grabbed the lead in the opening seconds of the second half at 21-19 when senior guard Nichole Tucker knocked down one of her three 3-pointers of the game.
Then New Washington’s defense took over.
The Mustangs (10-2) held the Pioneers to 14 points the rest of the way. New Washington extended its zone defense to put pressure on Providence’s shooters. After Tucker’s 3 at the start of the third quarter, the Pioneers missed 12 of their next 16 shots.
“They extended out and they made things really hard on us to get into any offensive sets,” Burden said. “When we are not able to get open looks, it’s really hard for us to score. With them extending out their pressure, it kind of stymied us and we didn’t handle it really well.”
The Mustangs’ defense helped their offense by getting out on the break more for some easy baskets. New Washington shot 50 percent in the latter half, hitting 12-of-24 from the floor. They outscored the Pioneers in the second half, 30-17.
White said some halftime adjustments helped the Mustangs pull out the victory.
“At halftime, we talked about some things that we should’ve been doing in the first half and we tried to reinforce those,” White said. “I thought we brought our intensity level up a little bit. We became a little bit more alert and aware. We told them that we had to rely more upon our defensive effort than our offensive effort.”
Three New Washington players scored in double figures. Junior guard Ashley Johnson collected a game-high 19 points, shooting 8-of-16 from the field. Teammates Kriston Sarver and Caroline Ricks each had 11 points. Ricks also had a game-high 14 rebounds and a game-high four steals.
“I think we’ve had some setbacks with the layoff. I think that has took us backwards to a degree,” White said. “But we talked about this at the beginning of the season that we thought that this is a team that had the capability of having a very, very successful year in the regular season and the tournament season if we play the way we are capable of playing.”
Senior guard Meredith Endris paced the Pioneers with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 from 3-point range. Endris had 11 points in the first half. Tucker ended up with 10 points.
Even though his team lost on Tuesday, Burden likes where his team is at this point in the season.
“We’re doing fine. We’re about where I expected us to be,” Burden said. “We played really well against Clarksville [last] Friday night [in a 45-15 victory]. We played well at times [against New Washington]. I’m proud of our effort tonight. New Wash is an excellent team. For us to play them that tough, I was very proud of them.
“[The Pioneers] are doing great. We’ve just got to keep working and keep improving, and hopefully we’ll reach our goal of a winning season.”
New Washington will return to action on Thursday when it hosts Jeffersonville in a make-up game. Providence will host Charlestown on Friday.