Damascus High School girls basketball coach Steve Pisarski said the game plan he and his coaching staff scripted for Friday's road contest against seventh-ranked Northwest was simply not working for much of the first half, leading to a modest one possession deficit with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second quarter.
From that point on, however, the Damascus pregame strategy worked to almost perfection as the second-ranked Swarmin' Hornets used a 13-0 run to end the first half to take a 31-20 halftime lead. It increased to as much as 24 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 54-38 victory in Germantown.
“I thought it was a poor first half,” said Pisarski, whose team improved to 3-0 with its third straight lopsided victory to begin the season. “To their credit, they came out with a lot of energy. It was one of those first halves, where what we game planned didn't happen, but in the second half, we came out and utilized our size a little better [and his team's man-to-man defense] got better.”
Jaguars guard Kendra Meredith (19 points) caused much of Damascus' first half woes, erupting for 13 of her team's 20 points, including a trio of 3-pointers against both man and zone defenses. Her last basket and the last points for the Jaguars in the first half came on a runner in the lane that Meredith was fouled on, but she failed to convert the foul shot.
The Swarmin' Hornets clamped down defensively the rest of the way while receiving seven points each from Jenna Kaufman and Sam Day to push out to the 11-point halftime advantage. Second-leading scorer Kelli Prange was sidelined much of the half because of foul trouble to hold her scoreless.
Damascus went back to its man-to-man defense to start the third quarter and it limited Northwest (3-1) to just six points for the quarter. Four of those points came in the final 1:29 of the quarter, resulting in a 45-26 Damascus lead.
“Damascus had great man-to-man defense and we stopped executing,” Jaguars coach Todd Ostrom said. “We stopped bringing the intensity. We got impatient on offense and we started rushing our shots. We didn't have many good looks. Credit Damascus, they played a heck of a game.”
Prange dominated the low-post for eight points in the third quarter and she assisted on a layup by Day. Becky Barrett had a rebound layup to put the game pretty much out of reach at the end of the third.
Barrett, Prange (10 points) and Lauren Derby (13 points) helped spearhead the team's defensive effort with 20 combined rebounds to help limit Northwest to one shot per possession while also doing a good job of closing down the driving lanes to the basket.
“We started playing more our game and … just really clicking as a team,” Barrett said. “It was a good, team win all the way around.”
The victory was bittersweet for Damascus, however, with the loss of Day to what looked like a serious knee injury in the fourth quarter. Day (13 points, five rebounds) led Damascus in scoring as a sophomore two years ago, but missed last season because a knee injury. The versatile guard entered Friday's game averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game. The knee she hurt Friday was not the same one that sidelined her a year ago.
“It didn't look good, but Sam's tough and she's strong,” Pisarski said. “She missed all of last year with a torn ACL in the other knee. That would be a really big blow. More importantly, it would be a big blow as a person. She deserves more than that.”
Damascus 54, Northwest 38
Damascus (3-0) 14 17 14 9 54
Northwest (3-1) 13 7 6 12 38
Damascus: Anna Warfield 1 0-0 2, Kelli Prange 4 2-2 10, Jenna Kaufman 3(1) 4-4 11, Lauren Green 1 1-5 3, Sam Day 4 5-7 13, Lauren Derby 4 5-7 13, Becky Barrett 1 0-0 2. Totals 18(1) 17-25 54.
Northwest: Jasmine Mutunga 3 2-4 8, Kendra Meredith 6(3) 4-8 19, Dominique Anderson 0 2-3 2, Hillaevi Mensah 3 0-1 6, Tiffany Lake 1 1-2 3. Totals 13(3) 9-18 38.