HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Scheme change fuels Indiana's win over New Castle
Indiana loves its press defense, and it’s always been good in the man-to-man.
After spotting New Castle an early-first-quarter lead, Indiana went back to its traditional strengths on defense, which sprung its offense to life, and the Indians ran away with a 67-44 victory over the Red Hurricanes in a WPIAL Class AAA non-section girls’ basketball game Monday evening at Fifth Street Gymnasium.
Indiana heads into its Christmas break with a 5-3 record.
The Indians fell behind 8-1 in the early going, but went on a 49-8 run into the third quarter, including a 36-7 run to close out the first half.
The good fortune was keyed by Indiana’s shift from a zone defense to its usual full-court press followed by a man-to-man setup in the halfcourt.
“They like the press,” Indiana coach Dave Woodall said. “We got a couple of steals off the press. We hit a couple of 3s there. When they haven’t scored, and all of a sudden, boom, they’re starting to hit shots, they got the jump back in their legs and started moving. When we play zone, that slows us down, and that’s not our kind of game. As a matter of fact, that’s the kind of game New Castle seems to prefer to play now, a slower game, and we certainly didn’t want to do that.”
“When we go into man, we usually go into our press,” junior forward Lucy Bujdos said. “We always say our press really pumps us up and gets us ready for the game, so that gets us into the game. It was a good idea to play man against that kind of team.”
After New Castle (2-6) opened up its 8-1 lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter, Indiana held the Hurricanes to just eight points over the next 17 minutes of play. Indiana outscored them 23-2 in the second quarter.
“We really wore them out,” Woodall said. “In that second quarter, they were dead tired. That was a big thing, too. They were just tired. They could barely get up and down the court. Our conditioning looked pretty good. We looked pretty fresh, and of course we were using seven or eight kids, so that helped as well.”
“That’s another thing I like with our red press, it gets us to work together,” Bujdos said. “People say, ‘They’re working together on offense,’ but working together on defense is just as important.”
Bujdos led Indiana with 18 points, all over the first three quarters. Senior Kaitlyn Hoff, back into her starting routine after missing the season’s first weekend with an injury, scored 15 points. Freshman Jess Stever and sophomore Alicia Kunkle scored 10 each, and the Indians shot 42.9 percent overall (24 of 56).
Darrian Johnson scored 26 points for New Castle, but the Hurricanes didn’t have another player score more than six.
“We thought we could do a better job of containing (Johnson) if we played in zone,” Woodall said. “We scouted them, but you see a sample of one game. They had two or three people other than the people we saw score and hit shots, so we said this isn’t going to work. We went to man and started pressuring and our girls really responded, hit some big shots and just played very, very well.”
The victory is a nice boost to further distance Indiana from a frustrating 49-45 WPIAL Section 3-AAA loss at Mount Pleasant last Monday. Indiana next plays Wednesday, Jan. 2, when it welcomes Derry in a section game.
“Tonight was really, to me, a pivotal game, because if we lost, we’re 4-4, and that’s not the start we wanted,” Woodall said. “We already lost one this past week, which we never should’ve lost. That kind of sticks in your throat for a while. You lose another one right before vacation, you’ve got 10 days to think about that. And that was such good team game tonight. So many people made positive contributions. Everybody did, actually. It’s a good way to get into break, have some time with family and get away from basketball a little bit, but we know coming back that we’re hitting on all cylinders now.”