National Trail never let Union County even get started Saturday afternoon.
Scoring the first 11 points, within just less than three minutes, the girls basketball Blazers took control early and went on to a 70-36 victory.
In so doing, 5-5 Trail enters the Christmas holiday on a modest two-game winning streak, while the young and injury-plagued 2-11 Patriots get a break from game action, not returning to the court until Jan. 2 at home against Ross (Ohio).
The Blazers dominated on both defense and the boards here in the Saturday matinee, as balance was the key throughout. Four players scored in double figures, and two earned double-doubles in points and rebounds, 6-1 junior Kate Deaton and senior Tiffany Jordan.
Still, it’s team that is uppermost on the mind of Blazer senior Paige Thompson and her classmate Jordan.
“I think we’re coming together as a team,” Thompson said afterward. “It’s (the team’s effort) focused more on all five players rather than ourselves.”
That was evident early, as all five Trail starters scored in the game’s first eight minutes, and the hosts raced to a 22-4 lead.
In the second quarter, Jordan had 10 of her game-high 19 points in a 25-point second quarter for the Blazers. She finished with an unofficial total of 11 rebounds, while Deaton yanked down 18 boards, along with recording a dozen points.
Thompson had 11 points in the first half, and 12 in the game, while adding seven rebounds in a game that Trail led 47-13 at intermission.
For the visitors, a lot of young players got game experience against a Blazer team that is 5-5 versus a brutal early season schedule, which has included a 4-1 mark in the school’s Cross County Conference slate. The only CCC loss was a narrow defeat at undefeated Tri-Village.
“We work really hard on rebounding, and we just try to get position and move to the ball,” Thompson said of her team’s rebounding prowess. “Rebounding is as much about heart as anything else. We just try to stay aggressive, and we’ve out rebounded everybody we’ve played so far.”
The team’s other two starters, Andrea Hunt and Miranda Mize, added 10 and eight points, respectively.
“Tiffany had a great game (Saturday), and I was pleased with our defense,” said Trail head coach Troy Ferguson. “I was also pleased with our offense. When we take care of the ball and execute and everybody touches the ball, we’re a pretty good team.”
For the Patriots, turnovers early led to Trail offensive opportunities, and the game got away from the visitors in a hurry. Union County has lost senior Ryleigh Waltz for the season with hip surgery, and another player, Brook Reiboldt, has a back injury and may also be lost for the season. Junior Maria Duckworth returned just Saturday after also being out with an injury.
That reality has made the season a little longer for the team and first-year head coach Pat Tafelski.
“It’s (the loss of Ryleigh Waltz and Reiboldt) almost like we have to start over, and our players are having trouble adjusting to the changes. It’s been a tough transition, even tougher than I thought coming into the season,” Tafelski said after the game.
Duckworth and sophomore Emily Goecke led UC with eight points Saturday, while Leah Gabbard added six and freshman Tanner Henry added five off the bench. The Patriots did hit six treys in the contest. Of the 11 players to see varsity action Saturday, guard Shelby Sharpe was the only senior. Four freshmen saw significant floor time, as did sophomore Alisha Burkhead, all of whom played a lot of junior varsity basketball earlier in the season.
While UC looks for improvement and experience for a young team, Trail seeks to continue its recent surge on Thursday night with a home conference game against Newton.
“We hope to move to 6-5 (with a win against Newton), then go into the New Year with momentum for a lot of tough conference games upcoming against the likes of Miami East, and others,” Ferguson said.