It was clear after two minutes that Long Reach’s talent was far superior to that of visiting High Point.
The Lightning scored the game’s first 52 points and cruised to a 71-8 victory over the Eagles on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
After 90 seconds, Long Reach’s full-court press forced six turnovers and turned them into nine quick points. By the end of the first quarter, High Point had given the ball away 17 times and trailed 24-0.
“We tried out a lot of sets that were new for us this year,” junior Gillian Engelbrecht said. “We changed up our press a little and some of our defenses from last year. Even though there are some returning players, we’ve reworked everything. So this was good practice for that.”
Engelbrecht scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to pace Long Reach. Junior Katelyn Peterson had 13 points and senior guard Olivia Callan added 12 in a game that saw all 11 players on the roster score.
Imani Sanders was a terror in the passing lanes. The junior guard finished the contest with seven steals to go along with nine points and four assists. Long Reach forced 37 turnovers, including 27 in the first half to take a 41-0 lead at halftime.
“We used this game to fix some the things that we still needed to work on,” Sanders said. “We were able to get our offense straight and that was the main thing that we wanted to do. ”
The Eagles finally scored at the 2:20 mark of the third quarter but by then the game was out of reach. Of the eight points scored by the visitors from Prince George's County, six were made free throws.
With a large margin to work with, Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield was able to try several different defensive looks.
“I like how we started off the game intensity wise,” Cofield said. “I told the girls that it doesn’t matter who we play, we have to come out with great intensity. In the second half, we were able to work on our matchup zone. There are still things we need to work on but I think they did a good job.”
The Lightning had one of the program’s best seasons ever a year ago and is focused on improving their reputation around the league.
“People expect for Long Reach to be at the bottom and we don’t want to have that reputation,” Sanders said. “We’re trying to build it back up. So we’re going to continue to work hard and let people know we’re not that same team.”
Long Reach returns to the court tomorrow night when they host Mount Hebron in the county opener.
Long Reach 71, High Point 8
HP (0-1): Inabinet 4, Oloyde 2, Camara 1, Ramirez 1.
LR (1-0): Engelbrecht 16, Peterson 13, Callan 12, Sanders 9, Ratliffe 9, Shaw 3, Kim 2, Strickland 2, Ekop 2, Padilla 2, Joyce 1.
Half: 41-0 LR.