Harper Creek High girls’ basketball coach Matt Ellenwood stuck to a winning formula Tuesday night.
That formula being: If his squad plays ball control and shoots infrequently although effectively, then his team’s opponent has little chance of lighting up the scoreboard.
Harper Creek slowed down the pace Tuesday in a non-league matchup against city rival Pennfield, getting a 35-25 win.
It was the same strategy the Beavers used in a 33-29 victory over another city foe Lakeview last week.
“We knew we were having an off-shooting night again early on, so our girls persevered, moved the ball around a lot, limited the amount of shots Pennfield could get off … and we made the best of our opportunities,” said Ellenwood, whose club improved to 5-1 on the young 2012-13 season with its fourth straight win.
Harper Creek, which enjoyed a balanced offensive attack — senior guard Brianne Burritt had nine points, senior forward/cetner Sarah Ressler eight, and a total of eight Beaver players scored in the game — did have a hard time slowing down Pennfield’s Shelby Miller.
Miller, a junior guard who netted 20 points in Pennfield’s 54-46 win over KVA rival Galesburg-Augusta last Friday, had 15 points Tuesday on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, including a 3-for-5 mark from 3-point range, and had five steals.
“Shelby Miller is just an amazing player. Phenomenal. I knew that the first time I saw her as a freshman … and she’s now one of the best players in the area,” said Panthers coach Rick Saldana.
The only problem for Miller, Saldana and Pennfield, however, was that Harper Creek was up 19 points — 31-12 — early in the fourth quarter when Miller hit a pair of threes and a deuce for an eight-point Panthers run that cut the gap to 11, 31-20.
“Even though we won the game, no, I’m not happy so much with the way we won tonight. We were up by a lot, and we’ve got to learn to salt those wins away better than we’re doing now,” Ellenwood said. “Still, I’m happy with this win. It was a big win for us again, against another city rival.”
Pennfield’s Saldana credited Harper Creek’s charges.
“My hat goes off to Harper Creek. They’re one of the top teams in the area, and they’re the best team in Battle Creek right now,” said Saldana, whose squad’s two-game win streak came to an end with the loss — with Pennfield now sitting at 3-3 with one more game before break (Thursday at Albion). “But we’re not going away. We’re going to keep on working hard. We’ll be back.”
The Beavers also have one more game left before break, on Thursday at home vs. St. Joseph. “Sure, it’s good to win, and it was a good win tonight,” Ellenwood said. “But 5-1 right now is just OK. We still have some growing to do.”
Harper led 6-1 after one quarter Tuesday, 18-6 at halftime and 27-12 after three.
Aside from her nine points, Brianne Burritt had four assists; and aside from her eight points, Ressler had eight rebounds and three steals. With four points each were Jozlin Johnson, Schae Brandt and Karlee Hancock; and Reagan Dishaw had four boards.
Miller added three rebounds for Pennfield, and Baylee Shelton had four points.