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Playing together as a team (VIDEO)

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IMG 3533BRIAN BESCH | PCE Kenadi Houser shoots for two in the lane.

By Brian Besch

The Onalaska Lady Cats proved just how far the team has come in a month's time, defeating New Waverly 63-27 Friday by the lake.

In their first meeting, the Lady Dogs took a 51-37 match from December. Whether revenge, redemption, payback or just the will to win, Onalaska left little doubt from the start. They took an early 14-4 lead and led by 11 by the end of the first period. 

A quarter later, the advantage grew to 32-12.

"If you go back to the game that we played at New Waverly, it wasn't even the same team," Onalaska coach Ashley Sustaita said. "We have done a complete rehaul of attitude and mindsets. They are totally bought in to their role and their job, and it's all 12 of them. They do such a good job of doing what I need them to and what the team needs them to do."

The struggles for New Waverly continued, as a suffocating Lady Cat defense held the opponent to just 14 points through three quarters. 

"We don't have a dominant kid and we've had teams try to box-and-one us," Sustaita said. "We just have such a great team right now and it is awesome to be a part of."

Sustaita feels each player knowing their role and how they fit into the team was the problem before. That appears to be settled, with the team shuffling five girls in and out and each playing a part.

"It's easy to want to be the top dog or not have any responsibility. I'm very open with my girls and very transparent with what I want them to do to be successful. We definitely put 'we' before 'me' every single day.

"I always tell my kids that we don't have starters. We have five kids that I think we need to start the game, but they know that it may not be the five that we need to finish the game to win it for us. Being ready on the bench and being active in the game is so important."

Kierra Anstee led the Lady Cats with 19 points, Kenadi Houser and Jordyn Shutter each had a dozen, and Maddie Stelck had eight.

"We have some freshmen who have stepped up defensively and have done a good job. It has been awesome to see our juniors take them under their wing and be excited for them. 

"On the last play, it was a freshman that shot the ball and my junior point guard is over there losing her mind for her. That is family and it is what we preach. I think we've done a good job of changing the culture here for women's basketball at Onalaska."

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Wildcats play for district lead Friday (VIDEO)

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IMG 3417BRIAN BESCH | PCE Michael Hamilton led all scores with 14 Tuesday night.

By Brian Besch

A stifling defense made for easy offense as Big Sandy breezed past Spurger 83-13 Tuesday. Turnovers gave the game the look of a layup drill at times, as the Wildcats led by 17 after the first quarter and 33 at the half.

Nearly at full strength, the Wildcats were too much for Spurger. The Pirates’ best quarter was in the first, scoring five points. Meanwhile the Big Sandy attack never amassed fewer than 19 points in a period.

“We’ve got nearly everybody back,” Wildcat coach Kevin Foster said with a bit of relief. “We went on a stretch from Thanksgiving until Dec. 28 where we constantly had two or three guys out. We've played a lot of bigger schools, so it has been tough on us. I kept telling the kids that it will prepare us for the long run, even though we are taking our lumps now.”

The ‘Cats spread the wealth, with each of the eight players scoring at least four points. Michael Hamilton was tops amongst them with 14. Elias Bullock scored 13, Kaden Foster and Josi Celestine both had a dozen, and Adrian Thompson had 10.

“The last few games we have really worked on getting the ball up and we go through stretches where we struggle to score,” Foster said. “We need to get into our offense quicker and really transition and fast-breaking. We have done a better job of that as of late. I feel like the one thing that we've done well for the past couple of games is defend. We’ve also rebounded well all year long.”

Much the same as the girls, Foster believes Friday's game at West Sabine will be in an important one for his Wildcats. The two schools were projected by many to finish first and second in the district.

“It is going to be a challenging and difficult game, but that's what makes it fun,” the coach said. “I told the kids that we will be focused these next two days in practice to get ready to play. They probably have the best individual player in the district. He has started for them since he was a freshman and is a junior now. They have some good athletes and we are looking forward to it.”

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Outside shooting lifts Lady Pirates (Video)

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Leggett vs Goodrich Girls 01 08 2021

by Brian Besch

The Leggett Lady Pirates established an early lead and coasted to a 59-41 win Friday over Goodrich. 

Shooting well through the first half, Leggett entered the locker room after doubling the Lady Hornets’ output, 34-17. 

“They played good defense and they moved the ball,” Lady Pirate coach Terri Barlow said following her 251stvictory. “We got down and moved our feet and we worked together as a team a lot better. We need to work on rebounding and boxing out.”

Erika Hansen led all scores with 28 points. She connected on four 3-pointers and a couple of free throws in the effort.

“(Hansen) is a senior and I am glad for the way she is stepping up and getting the team together. Pretty much all of them can shoot and they were all pretty hot tonight. I was proud of them. Our (Addison Hinson) stepped up and got six (hitting two 3-pointers). All of them hit some big shots.”

Outside shooting aided the large early lead for the Lady Pirates, as the team hit four shots from behind the arc in both the first and second quarter. Kylie Valderez was responsible for four 3-pointers herself, scoring 13 for the night.

Latrina Morgan was tops for the Lady Hornets with 18 points, followed by Breya Passmore with 10 and Aralyn Angel with nine.

Leggett was not slowed until the fourth period, when they were outscored 17-9 by a Goodrich team that finally found post players Morgan and Passmore.

“I feel like we played harder than we did last game,” Goodrich coach Khadijah Carter said. “We had a slow start, then we kind of picked it up toward the end. It was a little bit too late. I feel like they were more into it today than what they have been.

“I like how when we got the ball inside, we scored. We did not do a good job of covering them from shooting threes. If we were able to stop them from shooting threes and got the ball inside, it could have been a better game. We need to run more high-low and we are doing a way better job of getting it into the post. It is what we were working on during the break.”

Leggett is currently 2-2 with losses to Chireno and Zavala. Barlow feels like her team shouldn't have lost to Zavalla and thinks there is still a good chance her team can still obtain a second-place finish in district. 

Barlow was awarded before the game for achieving 250 victories as Leggett’s coach.

“It's the same and I never would have known how many wins I had if it wasn't for (Pirate) Coach Sean Edwards,” she said of the honor. “I wasn't really keeping up with it. It feels the same. It is a great accomplishment, but a win is a win, and we will keep on going.”

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Pirates sail to victory over Goodrich w/Video

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Legget vs Goodrich 01 08 2021

by Brian Besch

Round one of the Polk County rivalry went to Leggett Friday night, taking a 59-27 win over Goodrich in Dudley Dickens Gym.

Varian Flournoy paced the Bucs with 26 points and Chase Parrish added 15. Leggett was consistent in each period, scoring at least 13 every eight minutes of play.

“We played good ball and (Goodrich) Coach (Lester) King always has stuff up his sleeve,” Leggett coach Sean Edwards said. “They played hard with five guys, so you have to give it to them. I like that we find ways to win, but sometimes our effort is lackadaisical. We are just not getting rebounds and not being aggressive enough. Regardless of the opponent, we have to be aggressive every time.”

The Pirates held a 17-5 advantage after the first quarter and would only add to it from there. Goodrich improved as the game developed, scoring nine in each quarter of the second half. The Hornets were led by Joacxi Garzon with 20 points and freshman A’mareion Bookman had six.

Edwards says he does not believe that his team has played anywhere near its potential this season.

“This year's team is better, team-wise, than last year,” the Pirate coach said. “They don't even know how good they are, but they are finding ways to win. We need more fundamentals. We need to block out, rebound and do the small stuff, playing together.” 

It has been difficult in the 2020-21 hoops calendar to get some of those fundamentals, with a four-week break in the middle of the season, but Edwards hopes to get some basics established during district.

Goodrich knows all about difficulty, down to only five players. There is little room for error — or fouls. Much the same as Leggett, King is getting hoping to teach his baby bees on the fly, as district play continues.

“They are young kids and they get so excited on offense,” King said. “They need to just slow down a little bit. I told them that we did just what we needed to do. We attacked the basket and in the first half we shot 18 free throws. When we got in the paint, we just couldn’t make a layup. When you are not scoring and not making layups or free throws, you have to concentrate on defense. It is hard for young kids to do that.”

Goodrich received its first win of the season over Chester earlier in the week, and the Hornets will try to build on that going forward.

“It is hard when you don’t have people to practice,” King said. “We go over there with the girls sometimes, but it is not the same. If you can get 10 people where you can go to war in practice, you don’t get as excited. But this is like a culture shock in a ball game and you can’t get anybody hurt. We are just going to keep working and try to get in these playoffs. That’s the goal.”

Goodrich will host Chireno on Tuesday, while Leggett travels to Chester.

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Livingston nips Onalaska (Video)

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Livingston Onalaska 12 15 2020

By Brian Besch
Photos by Brian Besch

LIVINGSTON— The Livingston Lions escaped Tuesday with a narrow 59-55 home win over Onalaska. 

With several lead changes in the final period, the Lions were able to hold off a surging Wildcat squad. Onalaska put up 20 points in the fourth quarter to keep the game in doubt until the last four seconds.

“I'm proud of my kids, especially being down two starters,” Onalaska coach Nick Tyerman said. “To have this game and play as well as they did, I am so proud of them. When you look at the other side, they have the depth and we had five left. We had one get hurt and one foul out. It was a great game, but not what we want, because we always want to win the game. For our last competition before district starts Friday, I feel great.”

Tyerman said Tuesday's game was one of the best that his team has played on the young season.

“Probably close to it. There was good execution and good patience and a good all-around game on both sides of the ball, which I'm very proud of. I love how much we moved around on defense. We flew around to the ball and drew a lot of charges, we closed out hard and we made it tough for them to score. I think they really didn't start getting it inside until we started getting a little gassed there at the end.”

Lion Chris Washington led all scores in the game with 23 points, Jontavian McNeal had nine and Willie Fagan had eight. For the Wildcats, Chase Fletcher led with 15 points and blocked several shots, Kevin Redden had 14 points and Ryan Kratz added a dozen. 

Early on, the Wildcats held an 8-3 advantage before Livingston found their footing. A late 3-pointer put Onalaska up by one going into the second quarter. The Lions moved back in the front and remained there until the fourth quarter, holding leads of as large as 16 points.

“We went to full-court man some and then we came back and just put pressure on the ball, and that got us back a little bit,” Livingston coach Calvin Phillips said. “Every game that we've had the last few ball games, we've kind of been behind. It is always us coming in on man-to-man defense, making a quick steal and going down to score to turn the game around.

“I didn't think we guarded the ball very well. That was something I was a little afraid of going in — that the 3-ball was going to hurt us. We went out there with our hands down. The times that we got up there and got our hands up and guarded the ball, they didn't hit their shots. I thought that was the key. You can't take it away from them; they shoot the hell out of the 3-ball.”

Perimeter shots were falling for the Wildcats, which always seems to be a little more important in Onalaska. Previous teams by the lake have lived on the 3-pointer, but Tyerman believes that is changing a bit this year.

“This year, we've been more 50/50,” the Wildcat coach said. “They, for some reason, were playing more for our drive, and I think that is because the last few games we have been attacking more. That is what has been there. We are so known for our 3-point shooting that everyone wants to take that away. Now we've become a little more balanced and we're better at reading the defense, where we can see what they are going to give us today. We are taking advantage of it.”

Down by eight going into the fourth quarter, the ‘Cats continued to work their way back into the contest. They took a one-point lead at 47-46 with 4:30 remaining. 

With just 22 seconds to go, Onalaska’s Kratz hit a free throw that tied the game at 55. Fagan connected on a jumper in the lane to put the Lions back on top by two. After a defensive stand, Washington was fouled and made good on both of his free throws to put the game out of reach with four seconds on the clock.

Though it was there at the end when the Lions needed it most, Phillips said he worries about his half-court offense because his team lacks patience at times.

“We have to win off of our pressure defense, because if we don't, we are going to have a hard time. Everything has to be in transition getting layups off of steals and that type of stuff. If we get it going, it's going to be a little bit different.”

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