Lady Billies dominate early, hold on for 48-40 win

The final score doesn’t always tell the whole story, and that was certainly the case Monday night.

The Fredonia Lady Hillbillies (10-2, 8-1) dominated the vast majority of their game against the Maple Grove Lady Red Dragons (4-9, 2-5), but in the end, they came away with a narrow 48-40 victory in a CCAA West I girls basketball contest.

Fredonia used an air-tight, man-to-man press defense, which resulted in multiple Maple Grove turnovers.

The Lady Red Dragons were unable to find a rhythm offensively in the first quarter as the Hillbillies took a 20-9 lead into the second quarter.

“We want to wear teams down,” Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said of the press defense. “Part of it is not even getting turnovers, but just getting them tired so that in the fourth quarter, they are making mistakes. That was the idea and we were getting some nice possessions from our defense. We work on defense every day and today was one of those games where it really paid off for us in the first half.”

After ending the first quarter on a 10-0 run, the Lady Hillbillies turned up their defensive intensity in the second quarter and held Maple Grove to just four points in the period. The first 16 minutes of the game were completely dominated by Fredonia as it took a 31-13 lead into the half.

“I was very happy with the way we played in the first half,” Zirkle said. “I thought that we really followed the game plan and the girls executed very well. We did a great job rebounding and did a nice job defensively. We were really trying to hold down (Emily) Swanson and I thought we did a very good job of that in the first half.

“But we got away from our game plan in the second half,” Zirkle added. “We had way too many turnovers and didn’t do a good job on defense. I’m very happy with how we started the game, but not so happy with how we finished the game.”

“Their defense is intense,” Maple Grove coach Mary Bartkowski said. “We were going too fast and that’s all there was to it. I tried to slow them down because we aren’t going to outrun these teams. We didn’t have any trouble breaking the press once we got the ball inbounds, but they just wanted to go full speed ahead.”

Maple Grove began to find a way to break the press and run its offense in the second half while forcing the Fredonia offense into mistakes of its own.

The Lady Hillbillies opened the half by turning the ball over on four-straight possessions, resulting in two timeouts by Zirkle.

“I just said to them ‘The game isn’t over. I don’t know where we lost our focus, but we need to gain it back and take care of the ball,'” Zirkle said, referring to her message to the team during the timeouts. “It’s basic fundamentals of basketball and you need to take care of the ball. We came down the floor and turned it over four times in a row without even getting a shot. You can’t do that once let alone four times in a row.”

But the timeouts couldn’t stop Maple Grove’s Emily Swanson from taking over the quarter. Swanson scored all six of Maple Grove’s third-quarter points to help get the Lady Red Dragons’ offense going. After the third quarter, Fredonia held a 37-19 lead, but the momentum was clearly on the side of the visitors heading into the final quarter.

Fredonia started the final frame hot as Sarah Cruver scored six points in the first four minutes of the quarter to lead the Lady Hillbilly offense. But midway through the period, Maple Grove stormed back.

The Lady Red Dragons went on a 12-2 run down the stretch, led by Amie Adams, who had six points in the final minutes of the game. The Lady Red Dragons were able to cut the lead to eight points in the final seconds, but that is as close as they would come before the final buzzer sounded.

“I told the girls in the locker room that we will win games if we hold teams to 40 and under,” Bartkowski said. “And (Fredonia) is definitely a team that we won’t hold to under 40. They are an amazingly fast team and they are very talented. It helped when (Morgan) Genovese was on the bench in the fourth quarter and we were able to narrow the gap.”

Morgan Genovese led Fredonia with 17 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists. Fifteen of her 17 points came in the first three quarters.

Lauren Reyda added a season-high nine points off the bench while Cruver had eight points and three rebounds. Cruver had six of her eight points in the fourth quarter during a time when the Lady Hillbillies were struggling to produce at either end of the floor.

Madison Abrams also contributed in the win with seven rebounds while Caitlyn Cybart had six of her own in the win.

Swanson led Maple Grove with the game’s lone double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Brianne Davis scored a team-high 11 points and also had three steals in a losing effort. Adams scored all six of her points down the stretch, pulled down five rebounds and was a defensive presence in the middle the entire game. Morgan Lehman added five rebounds in the loss.

“Carol (Zirkle) does a great job coaching that team,” Bartkowski said. “I told my girls I was very proud of them. They only get better playing in this league. Every team is talented and it’s only making them better. So as they keep improving, they have to keep at that height and keep going. They can’t come back down.”

Maple Grove travels to Falconer on Thursday while Fredonia is set to host rival Dunkirk the same day.