For 32 minutes, the Mallards force their opponents to make split-second decisions.
There’s hardly a time when the Worcester Prep girls basketball team doesn’t have a hand in the face of the inbounder.
The Mallards’ gameplan is simple — press, steal and get two points.
“That’s what we try to do,” head coach Simona Holland said. “We press full court. That’s how we start and we do fast breaks. That’s what we do — try to steal the ball and get fast breaks.”
The players have bought into the system, too. Holland said she and the coaching staff, Fulton and Corey Holland, stress attention to detail, making the bigger things easier to mange.
“A lot of the times we start out in the full press and try to get those turnovers and get our easy layups,” senior captain Molly Soule said.
In a game Monday against the Delaware school St. Thomas More, Prep went on an 18-0 run where it was all defense. The Ravens struggled with the press and lobbed long passes, and the Mallards were picking off the soft passes.
When they broke the press, it seemed like senior captain Sophie Brennan would pick-pocket the point guard and deliver the easy layup. She had nine steals on the night.
When the Mallards did get into an offensive set, missed shots were gobbled up by the final senior captain, Natalie Twilley, who had 20 rebounds on her way to a double-double.
“Natalie did awesome, she had 20 rebounds, which was definitely a help because she put it back up and got us a lot of points,” Soule said. “Sophie getting those steals, she always makes her layups, so that adds points, too.”
That’s the formula, and so far it has worked for the 6-1 Mallards.
Bigger matchups still to come
But the toughest tests of the season are coming right in a row. Wednesday the Mallards hosts Delmarva Christian, and then after the holiday they play Salisbury Christian and Sts. Peter and Paul — all main challengers for the ESIAC title this season.
The keys for Holland’s team will be to keep the practice intensity up and keep improving on the formula for success.
Holland said the Mallards’ stamina is up because of how hard they practice.
They go full bore for the hour-and-a-half, and it has been resulting in a higher endurance for gametime.
“The whole team has been playing really well,” Holland said. “Every game they’ve played better and better. Compared to last year, our shots are falling a lot more.”
With an improved offense, defense is still leading the way.
The quarterbacks of the defense are Twilley and Brennan. Twilley said the communication is key, along with how well the team works together.
As one of the tallest team members, Twilley is important on the boards and in the paint passing lanes.
“We have man-to-man defense and it just keeps us really into the game,” Twilley said. “We’re always going for the steal, always putting on pressure. We communicate a lot on defense so we know when picks are coming and switch really well.”
The athleticism of the Mallards also can keep them in games. If Prep doesn’t get off to the greatest start, they won’t tire, Brennan said.
Brennan said it’s to their advantage when they play the high-pressure defense because of the attacking style and athleticism of the girls.
“It gives us the advantage to know when to tap the ball away, when to push the fast break, because we have the athletic IQ,” Brennan said. “Since we’re athletes, it gives us the advantage that we’re in a lot better shape than a lot of the other teams. We can definitely full-court press the whole game.”
In previous years, Brennan said they had seniors to look up to, but now it’s different being the leader and taking control.
The Mallards’ seniors need to know when to push the ball and settle down.
If they can continue their formula for success, the Mallards have their shot at the ESIAC.
“We’re definitely defensively strong because we’re all athletes who mostly play basketball instead of basketball players,” Brennan said. “The seniors have to take over.”
firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter/ Instagram: @DTimes_Marshall