Early in Friday’s match-up against visiting Marriotts Ridge, Glenelg’s perimeter shooters were having a tough time finding the net.
Watching shot after shot clank off the rim was enough for Gladiators coach Chris Beil, who urged his girls to mix it up and feed the ball in the paint to Lauren Wright. With her team facing a deficit for much of the first half, Wright finally took over.
The senior registered 17 points and nine rebounds, leading her team to a 49-35 victory over the Mustangs.
“I’d like to see any post player in the county who is having a better season than Lauren,” said Beil after the victory. “She’s really stepped up her game.”
Aside from Wright, Glenelg’s Ally Forejt (13 points) and Olivia Nowlin – who scored all of her 11 points in the second half – also contributed in the winning effort. Megan Taylor notched five points and six assists as well.
The Gladiators (7-8, 8-9) normally thrive from beyond the arc. After watching her team’s opponent miss a myriad of layups and 3-pointers, Marriotts Ridge coach Caitlin Bay said she knew the cold streak would be short-lived.
“I told them Glenelg is a shooting team,” she said. “Their shots weren’t falling in that first half, and that’s what kept us in it. I knew it wasn’t going to be like that all game.”
Though Glenelg wasn’t knocking down its jumpers, the Marriotts Ridge defense that made it even tougher on the home squad. Normally, holding a team to 14 points in a half is something to praise heading into intermission. But, for the Mustangs (1-12, 2-13), a mere two-point advantage wouldn’t stand for long.
Wright said her team needed to regroup, and that halftime couldn’t have come at a better moment.
“We weren’t physical, and we weren’t getting on the boards. Coach told us at halftime that we had to make the layups, and that they were crucial,” she said. “We came out (in the second half) faster, and we came out stronger. It was definitely a turning point for us, because we had to pick up that fire.”
That strength in the second half came by the hand of Wright and Nowlin, who combined for nine points in the first 1:29 of the quarter. It took the Gladiators just seven minutes to match their point total from the first half. Once they had the lead in the opening minutes, they never relinquished it again.
Beil said the win came from a total team effort. While the offense got its groove back, so too did the defense, which had 11 blocks overall.
The coach went further, saying that his bench players provided sparks at the right moments.
“I’m very proud of them,” he added.
Marissa Davey led the visitors with 13 points overall, and Jenna Kerr and Amanda Miller combined for 14 rebounds, but it was team defense as well that kept the Marriotts Ridge in within striking distance.
The Mustangs were down just seven points heading into the final period, thanks to Jenna Bergquist connecting on a long-toss from half court as time expired.
Bay’s girls had plenty of opportunities to put points on the board with the clock stopped, as they went to the line five different times in the quarter. However, the Mustangs converted on just one of eight free throw attempts, making it difficult to create a momentum shift in their favor.
“I think it’s just the inexperience playing in close games,” said Bay. “We came out tonight and I know they wanted it. We got a little overexcited at some points just trying to do too much. We’re getting better though…we’ll keep grinding.”
Beil said his squad showed a great deal of poise in the comeback win, and with just four games remaining on the county schedule – all against teams with a record over .500 – Glenelg’s coach is ready for what lies ahead.
“That’s our team,” he said. “We’re looking forward to finishing out this year