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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: INDIANA 58, KITTANNING 37 -- Indians girls ride stifling defense to victory

by ELI NELLIS on December 11, 2013 10:41 AM

Kittanning sliced into a big first-quarter deficit, but Indiana’s ability to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard for long periods of time proved to be the difference in the Indians’ 58-37 victory in a WPIAL non-section girls’ basketball game Tuesday evening at Fifth Street Gymnasium.

Indiana (2-1) held the Wildcats (1-2) to just 10 points in a span of more than 22 minutes, between the 2:47 mark of the first quarter and the 2:40 mark of the fourth.

The Indians opened the game on a 15-0 run. After Kittanning pulled as close as four points, 21-17, in the second quarter, Indiana went on a 15-2 run spanning the last four minutes of the second quarter and the first four of the third.

“Each game they’ve gotten progressively stronger,” Indiana coach Dave Woodall said of his team. “We didn’t turn the ball over as much as we have been. They’re all going to grow, they’re all going to get better and, hopefully, as a team we’re going to get better as well.”

Indiana got a major lineup improvement in the return of senior guard Kaitlyn Hoff, who missed the season’s first two games while recovering from knee surgery. She scored 10 points off the bench, while her replacement in the starting lineup, sophomore Alicia Kunkle, led the team with 14 points. Lucy Bujdos added 12.

“Just having her on the court gives us so much more leadership and character,” Woodall said. “It boosts everybody, including the coaching staff.”

Kunkle, who has thrived defensively and as a distributor in an expanded role, scored 12 of her points in the first half.

“It’s fast still,” the 5-foot-6 guard/forward said. “The experience really helps, especially getting to experience it with my teammates. We all pass it to each other, make sure we all look for each other and give each other opportunities.”

“Near the end of the year, she came up pretty big for us a few times and earned her way into a spot to sub for us last year,” Woodall said. “She’s really worked on her game, and she’s only a sophomore. She doesn’t have a ton of experience out there. We’re kind of learning on the run here, how to play the game and how to look for each other and how to play defense and talk out there, so I’m pretty excited. You always like to see hard workers have good games. Our kids worked very, very hard, and they deserved to have a good game. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s a nice thing to see.”

Zoe Zahorchak, a 6-1 forward, got three quick baskets as Indiana built its early lead. Bujdos, a 5-9 forward, scored two of the Indians’ first three baskets as they opened the second half strong.

“We were able to get the ball to Lucy three or four times early in the second half and kind of padded our lead,” Woodall said. “The girls were really sharing the basketball a lot tonight. It was good to see. Everybody’s looking for their teammate to pass it to. That’s a good sign.”

Meanwhile, Indiana’s defense did a number on the Wildcats, holding them to 21.7 percent shooting (15 of 69). Kittanning made just 1 of 17 from behind the 3-point line.

“We really wanted to deflect the ball and shut them down,” Kunkle said.

Hoff, Indiana’s top returning scorer, made her first appearance late in the first quarter and remained in for a good portion of the game. She showed few, if any, ill effects of her injury, nor was she timid on the court. She drove to the basket and routinely drew fouls, making 6 of 9 free throws.

“It was going to be a challenge tonight, but when I stepped on the court I felt like I wasn’t missing much,” Hoff said. “My teammates helped me. They talked me up on the floor. They told me I was doing well and it really made me think I was doing well. Honestly, I don’t feel much different. Yeah, I’m a little shaky on a few things, but that’s going to get better with time.”

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