PLEASANT VALLEY – Ball control was the name of the game Tuesday night at The Hive as the East Fairmont High girls’ basketball hosted No. 6 Lincoln and the Bees would come out on the losing side of that battle.
The Cougars would keep East Fairmont out of rhythm from buzzer-to-buzzer offensively, rattling the Bees’ composure and forcing 22 turnovers on the night. Lincoln’s stout defense would keep East reeling – they would score just 21 points in the final three frames – as they battled back from an early deficit to earn a 52-35 victory.
“We struggled early forcing turnovers, then we went to a zone — especially an odd-front zone in the second half — and we were able to get a couple. Turnovers are a huge part of the game, and we did a good job of getting hands in passing lanes and getting where we needed to be,” Lincoln coach Rob Hawkins said.
“You can’t give a team like that extra possessions, and that’s what we did in the second and third quarter. When you give a team like that those possessions they’re going to score eventually,” East Fairmont coach James Beckman said.
The Bees jumped out to an early 14-10 lead through the first eight minutes of play, looking poised to pull off the upset over their top-ten ranked guest. The Cougars — who had opened the contest playing man-to-man defense — would make an adjustment midway through the half to zone defense, which would throw East off their game in a tremendous fashion.
After the defensive switch by Lincoln, the Bees would commit nine turnovers in the second frame as opposed to just two in the first, and the Cougars would rally to take a four-point lead. A 9-2 run by the Bees late in the half would allow them to take a 27-24 lead into halftime, but the zone had exposed a major hole in East’s offense.
“They were running their man offense extremely well and we wanted to switch it up a bit — the main reason we went to the zone was because we wanted to get into our press easier. Our press didn’t really affect them, but our zone slowed them down and forced them to take some shots they didn’t really want to take,” Hawkins said.
“We weren’t being aggressive, attacking the gaps in the zone, and getting ball movement. We were too concerned with other things, and we ended up being too conservative,” Beckman said.
The Cougars’ zone would continue to wear down East, forcing another eight turnovers and holding the host to just three points in the third quarter as Lincoln jumped out to a 40-30 lead by the end of the third. That lead would be enough for Lincoln to secure the win in the end.
“The identity we want to have, we were doing that in the first half. We just have to be able to put four quarters together and not play in spurts,” Beckman said.
The Cougars would also outwork the Bees inside, earning a 25-19 advantage on the glass and receiving a combined 36 points from forwards Allison Rockwell and Victoria Sturm — Rockwell would tally 14 points while pacing all players with nine rebounds, while Sturm scored a game-high 22 points while adding six rebounds.
“They had huge games, and when we were able to get the ball to the rim they were able to have a big second half. We settled for too many threes in the first half, and in the second half we started attacking the rim and getting the ball inside and that was a huge difference,” Hawkins said.
“On the boards, a lot of time when you go with the 1-3-1 zone you worry about rebounding, but I thought we did a really good job on the boards down there.”