During a timeout late in the second half of Friday night’s Section 2A tournament game, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown girls basketball coach Ty Kaus pointed out if the Buccaneers continue to keep Springfield off the scoreboard, they’ll win the game.
Leading 45-38, WEM went out and executed the straightforward logic.
Allison Rients stole a ball at the perimeter which eventually set up Brielle Bartelt’s first 3-pointer of the game. Rients then swiped another steal before No. 1-seeded Waterville-Elysian-Morristown produced a couple more stops to close out a 54-38 win against fifth-seeded Springfield.
With 10 steals and 21 forced turnovers, defense wasn’t a problem for the Buccaneers.
“Come playoff time, shots can come and go, but we’re going to win by our defense,” Kaus said.
The Buccaneers have allowed an average of 39 points per game this season. While they kept the Tigers to that average by game’s end, it was the slow start and poor shooting to begin the first half that didn’t sit well.
Typically, WEM is a team that comes out fast, establishes a lead and then wears teams down on defense to maintain the lead. With 11:30 to go in the half, the Bucs led 4-2.
While not at all the fast start the team expects, WEM kept attempting open shots from long range. It kept attempting to drive hard to the basket. Neither seemed to fall.
Perhaps taking advantage of some frustration by the lack of quick offense on the Bucs side, the Tigers capitalized on a few backdoor looks in the paint. Maddy Digmann and Courtney Wendt carried the Tigers to a 22-20 lead at the half.
“Once those (shots) didn’t go, we got frustrated and lost our composure a little bit. Too many quick possessions,” Kaus said. “We didn’t make them work defensively. We’d maybe have one drive and they’d defend that well. Then we’d fire something off. We have to maintain our composure a little better when things aren’t going for us.”
Ellie Ready and Toryn Richards got the Bucs offense going in the second half. Ready scored five quick points and Richards hit a couple 3-pointers to maintain the Bucs slim lead. Richards ended the game with a double-double, supplying most of the offense as well with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bucs finished off the Tigers, outscoring them 20-7 in the final 11:17 after leading 34-31. Rients came in and provided valuable defense.
Her efforts don’t go unnoticed to the coaching staff.
“She’s a very valuable person. She can knock down an open shot. She keeps the ball moving, she cuts hard, she screens well. Then defensively she’s really tough to get by,” Kaus said. “She’s one of our defensive stoppers at the end of the game where we know we can put her in and she’s going to be really tough to score against.”
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown faces No. 2 Martin County West on Tuesday in the Section 2A south subsection final in Waterville.