The West Holt girls and boys basketball teams picked up two huge wins on the road Friday against Clearwater/Orchard.
The Lady Huskies surged past OC, 46-32, in the opening contest.
“Coming in we knew we had to create a little bit of tempo,” stated West Holt girls coach Mike Pardun. “We used a full-court defense to get them out of rhythm and we tried to not make it a half-court game by getting up and down a little bit. For the most part, we did a pretty good job.”
After Katie Stearns' layup cut the Lady Huskies' lead to 2 in the first quarter, West Holt ended the half on a 30-8 run.
“Defensively we were just trying to keep them away from the basket,” Pardun continued. “They are pretty handy when they get around the basket. We challenged the outside shots and tried to end the possessions with rebounds and get them out in transition.”
Trailing by 20, the Lady Cyclones rallied with a 12-4 fourth-quarter run, but ultimately fell to the Lady Huskies.
“Defensively we did some different things,” commented OC girls coach Scott Leisy. “(Carlie) Wetzel is one of best offensive players in the conference. We did a good job on her. We just came flat and tired in the first half. We looked like a team that had played a lot of games in the past week. With the holiday tournament getting pushed back, it messes with your practice and rest time. We challenged them at halftime and we came out and won the second half. We’re not that far away from winning these games. The girls need to keep battling and fighting. We’ll get over the hump eventually.”
West Holt (7-3) dominated the boards, 42-20, and scored 18 second-chance points.
“We’re not a team that shoots a high percentage on our first shot,” Pardun said. “Through the year, we’ve professed to them we need to get on the boards and get second, and third, opportunities. Tonight we definitely did that. Our second-chance points were a big part of the game, and also just limiting them to one shot and done.”
The recent strand of Lady Cyclone opponents have been some of the top teams in the area. The combined record of the last five opponents against the green and black is 43-7.
“You hope you can carry over the experience you’re getting from these games,” Leisy said. “These were games we were not competitive in last year and the girls have really adjusted. They have taken the experiences from last year to this year, and carried it over to be more competitive. Now we just need to find a way to win. That’s the next step and we got a good Creighton team Tuesday night and Humphrey Lindsay/Holy Name is one of the best teams in D1. It doesn’t get any easier for a while.”
Stearns led OC (2-9) with 17 points and four rebounds. Maryssa Long tallied 4 points and four boards, Taylor Sanne contributed 2 points, three rebounds, two steal and two assists and Avery Cheatum added 3 points, four rebounds and two steals.
Nine different Lady Huskies scored Friday night, led by Wetzel’s double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Leighton Mlady recorded 7 points and nine boards, Peyton Randolph and Anna Albrecht each netted 6 points and Ashley Larby pitched in 5 points.
“Scoring wise, I thought we had some different people step in,” Pardun noted. “Anna Albrecht came off the bench and scored 4 points in the matter of 30 seconds. It was a combination of our starters and our bench players coming in and doing a pretty good job of scoring as well.”
In the boys contest, West Holt held on for a 59-56 victory over OC.
“It was a matter of coming back after our holiday tournament where we weren’t happy with the way we played,” spoke West Holt boys coach Todd Hale. “We got back to the mentality that we’re going to play good defense, create tough shots and get out and run. We played looser than what we have been and that was a key.”
It was a tightly, contested ball game in the first half. In the first 16 minutes of play, there was five ties and the largest lead was OC by 7.
A big third quarter gave the Huskies the momentum going into the final stanza. West Holt used a 17-10 run to start the third.
“We came out with a little special we put in,” Hale recalled. “We got a good look out of it and the kids did a good job of being patient. That led to us getting momentum and defensively we got stops. With a a good team like this, you need those mini runs. It was good, hard-fought game.”
After a Garrison Hansen layup pushed the Huskies' lead to 48-41 Midway through the fourth, OC went on a 9-2 run to knot the game at 50 with a pair of Jacob Long free throws.
“I was super proud of their effort,” remarked OC coach Jim Schutt. “It got to a point where they were up by 7 and that could have got to 10 or 12 pretty easy. Our guys picked it up and put ourselves in a position to win the basketball game at the end.”
On the ensuing series, Aaron Kraus converted a basket and Drew a foul to put West Holt back ahead and Austin Wenner snagged the rebound off the missed freebie to give the Huskies a 4-point advantage with more than a minute remaining in the contest.
OC drew within 3, but never came any closer and dropped to 7-3.
“This conference (Niobrara Valley Conference) is just a battle every night,” Schutt added. “We beat a really good North Central team last night and then we had these guys coming in, back-to-back. It’s tough and Todd (Hale) always has them playing tough defense that makes things difficult in the half-court. I was proud pdf my kids. We didn’t shoot as well as we’ve been shooting, but it just came down to a couple of possession at the end. It could have been anyone’s ball game.”
Despite the Cyclones only turning the ball over 10 times, West Holt (7-3) turned those limited miscues into 13 points.
“That’s a big part of our game,” Hale said. “We need to play good enough defense to out pressure to create turnovers. We got some guys who are pretty fast and when we get in the open court, we usually win that foot race.
Three players scored in double figures for OC, led by Ryan Wilhelm’s 19 points and seven boards. Long tallied 14 points, nine rebounds and five steals and Blake Hoke accounted for 14 points, four boards, two assists and two steals.
The Huskies were led by Jordan Tasler’s 14 points. Hansen accumulated 13 points, Kooper Jelinke notched 10 points and Kraus added 7 points.
West Holt hosts Elkhorn Valley today.
“Elkhorn Valley is better this year,” Hale stated. “They have some good young players and good leadership at the senior level. This is our first conference back-to-back. We need to physically and mentally get ready to go. The guys will be ready to go.”
The Lady Huskies tipoff with the Lady Falcons at 3:30 p.m.
“They are a very good and veteran team,” Pardun said. “They have girls who have played a lot of basketball for them. With the short turnaround, it’s going to be tough. They play a 1-3-1 defense and that’s a defense we have not seen this year. It’s going to be a tough task. It’s a home game against a familiar opponent and hopefully our girls come out and compete.”
Clearwater/Orchard travels to Creighton Tuesday at 4 p.m..
“We have to keep moving on offense,” Schutt concluded. “We’re going to play big, physical teams like these guys that are tough. We have to do those little things. Check out on rebounds, grab the ball and hit your free throws. Those little things add up to winning a ball game.”