PERRY – Perry and Lansing Catholic came into Tuesday’s season opener in similar positions.
The Ramblers lost eight players – including all five starters – from last year’s team that captured the program’s second straight Greater Lansing Activities Conference title. The Cougars graduated six key players from their 2015 team that grabbed double-digit wins for the second season in a row.
Both programs are undergoing some construction, but it was Lansing Catholic that was able to begin the rebuilding process on a positive note. The Cougars, after trailing, 22-16, at halftime, put together a strong second-half performance to battle back and defeat Perry, 56-28, at Perry High School.
“In our preseason, we played a lot more like how we did in the second half,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “We had a lot of jitters, we got in some foul trouble, and I think we just lost ourselves in the first half.
“We started doing the little things: boxing-out, rebounding, running the break. …We did some of the little things to start getting some buckets.”
Baskets were a rarity for the Cougars in the first 16 minutes, as they failed to finish around the rim for much of the first half. The Ramblers started taking advantage of Lansing Catholic’s miscues midway through the first quarter and went on an 8-3 run to grab an early lead.
Perry led the Cougars for the final 12 minutes of the first half.
The Ramblers were able to take a 22-16 lead into half when freshman Alyssa Welsh, who finished with six points, banked a 3-pointer off the glass as time expired.
“We played (well in) the first half because we focused on just playing and not over analyzing things,” Perry coach Tim Beebe said. “In the second half, I think it got to the point where they started to think a little bit more instead of just playing.
“Catholic made some adjustments with their trap, and we didn’t adjust well to that. It was a combination of things.”
Junior forward Rebecka Poljan, who scored a game-high 16 points, was able to get Lansing Catholic rolling after sitting out most of the second quarter due to foul trouble. Poljan scored the first four points of the half and ignited an 11-2 run, which consisted of back-to-back 3-pointers from Devan Buda, who scored seven points, and Steffi Kracko – the Cougars’ first makes from long distance in the game.
Lansing Catholic carried the momentum into the fourth quarter and scored 19 straight points before the Ramblers could convert on the offensive end. Poljan scored 10 in the final quarter.
Junior point guard Katy Shannon feels the Cougars are a much different team when the 6-foot-2 Poljan is on the floor.
“It’s definitely a game-changer when Rebecka is rebounding, putting her baskets in,” said Shannon, who had seven points. “We were missing shots (in the first half), which caused the momentum to go down. In the second half, we took the ball in.”
Gracie Ohlmer led Perry in scoring with eight points. Senior Sophie Brenke pitched in with five.
Lansing Catholic’s Jordan Pence added seven points.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.