Mount de Sales rides defensive pressure to victory over Western Tech

Already dealing with the loss of frontcourt starter Abby Kuhn due to illness, Mount de Sales coach Trish Armstrong held her breath as she watched 6-foot-1 forward Syd Skalstad come down awkwardly on her leg in a game at Western Tech on Dec. 20.

The Sailors (6-3) were leading the hosts, 11-6, with 3:42 left in the first period when Skalstad went to the bench..

Western Tech proceeded to go on a 6-0 run in the next 70 seconds, thanks to a putback by Inaya Billy and a pair of baskets by Tiffany Manning, giving the hosts a 12-11 lead.

With 2:32 left in the quarter, Skalstad returned and the Sailors exploded with an 11-0 run and 22-12 lead.

Western Tech never recovered from the 13 turnovers they committed in the first quarter and they fell, 65-37.

“We are a young team and when they do things right, they look good, but Mount de Sales is a private school and they are one of the better private schools and they took advantage of our youth and inexperience,” Western Tech coach Alan Lagon said.

Kristen Zaranski (17 points), Skalstad (12) and Allie Berlin (10) scored in double figures to lead Sailors.

It was the second consecutive win for the Sailors, who are 2-2 with Kuhn, who averaged 10 points and 12 rebounds a game, out of the lineup.

“We lost those first two games without Abby, but now we are starting to find our groove,” Armstrong said.

After losing to St. John’s Catholic Prep and Catonsville, the Sailors defeated St. Timothy’s, 56-37, and Western Tech using a different philosophy.

“We lack some size with Abby gone, so we are going to be all over them,” said Armstrong, whose defense forced 27 Western Tech turnovers.

It was three turnovers in 12 seconds that sparked the first-quarter run.

The first led to two made free throws from Skalstad, which was a welcome sight for a coaching staff that watched the Sailors convert just 4 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter of a 63-37 loss to Catonsville.

Skalstad was 4-for-4 from the line and Zaranski was 5-for-6 and the Sailors converted on 18 of 27.

After Skalstad’s free throws gave the Sailors the lead, they got a three-pointer from Zaranski, off a Berlin assist, a steal and basket by Zaranski, bucket by Skalstad and fastbreak layup from Berlin.

The only point the Wolverines scored in the final 2:32 of the quarter was a free throw by Manning with 25 seconds left that broke the 11-0 drought, but Berlin made a running one-hander for a 24-13 lead at the break.

Skalstad and Sophia Stewart had six points each in the second quarter, when de Sales extended the lead to 49-19 and they coasted the rest of the way.

The reserves got most of the action in the second half, which was fine for Western Tech’s Lagon, who praised junior substitutes Kelechi Onuigbo and Peace Exeka.

Both scored on putbacks in the fourth quarter.

Lagon was also happy to see a three-pointer from freshman Sydney Stokes.

“She’s aggressive and that’s what I like about her,” Lagon said. “She bounces back real quick.”

Stokes started along with Manning and juniors Kayla Jenkins, Jada DeShields and Billy.

DeShields led the Wolverines with eight rebounds.

Despite losses to Mount de Sales and Tuscarora, Western Tech’s Lagon likes the way his team is developing.

“I’m trying to infuse in the kids that they have talent, they’ve just got to believe in themselves and what they are doing and they have got to trust each other,” Lagon said.

They did just that in a 48-20 win over Annapolis and 54-39 victory over Carver.

In both of those games the defense set the tone, but Lagon feels it can get better.

“That’s where we need to get a lot better is on defense,” Lagon said. “We are going to score points.”

The scoring leader through the first four games is Manning, who is averaging a shade under 20 points a game.

“She’s aggressive,” said Lagon, noting she led the team in scoring as a freshman last season (15 points per game).

He hopes his other younger players can follow her lead.

“We’ve just got to keep getting better and worry about us,” said Lagon, who knows playing tougher teams like Mount de Sales early in the season, will only make his squad stronger for the postseason.

Mount de Sales coach Armstrong, whose squad plays at Liberty in another non-league game on Friday, Dec. 22, was happy to come out with a split in two games against neighboring public schools.

“I feel like we’ve got to play these community teams like Western Tech and Catonsville,” Armstrong said. “With these community teams, it’s good for everybody.”

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