By JASON EPP
Leader & Times
HOOKER, OKLA. - The first basketball game of the season if often a time to shake of the rust, and finally get to see how you measure up against competition. The Hooker Lady Bulldogs knocked off the most rust and started the season with a 49-40 win over the Beaver Lady Dusters.
"It was pretty much a defensive struggle with neither team able to do much offensively," said Lady Bulldogs coach Ray Kennedy. "But I was real proud of our defensive intensity, and how hard we played."
Two keys for the Lady Bulldogs at the offensive end were second-chance points, and getting to the free throw line. In fact, 20 of the Lady Bulldog's points came off of their 35 attempts at the charity stripe.
After Hooker's Brittney Bergner started of the scoring with a three, Beaver's Shelby Perry answered with a steal and a layup to make the score 3-2. But over the next seven minutes Hooker went on a 14-3, including four straight possessions when baskets came after an offensive rebound. The run helped Hooker take a double-digit lead into halftime, 23-13.
"That stretch where they had eight straight points off of offensive rebounds," said Lady Dusters coach Casey Jones. "I didn't think that was going to be a problem but apparently it is."
Hooker also looked very different defensively than they have in recent years, using full-court pressure to utilize their team speed. Beaver struggled at times to against the press and were called for a 5-second violation on inbounds plays three times in the first half.
"We feel like we need to pick up full-court and pressure the basketball," said Kennedy.
"We're just not good enough to beat pressure defense right now," said Jones. "I've got a lot of young players. There is a lot of work to be done."
Hooker was unable to pull away in the third, and led 34-23 heading to the fourth quarter. Beaver had their best offensive stretch of the game, scoring the first five points of the fourth and pulled within five at 30-35 with 6:21 left in the game.
But the Lady Dusters went dry from the field over the next five minutes, while Hooker made 13 of 19 free throws in the fourth to take a 48-32 lead with 1:03 left.
Shania Miller led the Lady Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points, and Jade Cathcart added 9. Beaver's Alyssa Mounsey scored all of her 15 points in the second half.
Both coaches had perspective on the first game of a long season.
"It's an ongoing process," said Jones. "I can see positives in the press. The kids at Beaver have always worked real hard at defense and this group is no different. We are not smart enough about it yet, but we'll get there. We are going to get better."
"We've got to execute better," said Kennedy. "Some of that is just shots not falling. But I loved our effort."