Early move gets East Marshall over Comets

LE GRAND – The Mustangs never got comfortable in a pair of early season tests against ranked opponents.

In its third outing, East Marshall found its comfort zone right away.

Scoring the first 13 points of the game and leading 19-4 after one quarter, the East Marshall girls basketball team coasted to a 53-37 victory over BCLUW in the North Iowa Cedar League West Division opener for both squads.

“This was our best start we’ve had in the three games we’ve played and our best start in terms of actually finishing shots,” said East Marshall coach Missy Pieters. “This game we actually finished our shots, played some pretty decent looking defense and finished offensively so the girls kind of fell into a comfort zone.”

Taylor Fricke and Ashley Allen each scored 13 points as the Mustangs (1-2, 1-0) never saw their lead dip below nine.

Consecutive putbacks from Mariah Fritz and Allen extended the margin to 8-0 midway through the first and Kristen Amendt drilled a 3-pointer to increase the gap to 13 with 2:09 left in opening frame.

East Marshall’s 2-2-1 press defense and a slew of unforced turnovers put the Comets in a big hole early.

“We probably had double-digit turnovers,” BCLUW coach Jess VanderWeerdt said of the first quarter. “Basically a 2-2-1 press is seeing if your opponent will give you the ball and make some mistakes, and if they will, you’re there to take it away. We obliged – we gave them a lot of easy baskets. I’m sure we had more turnovers than shot attempts in the first quarter.”

Samantha Ubben’s jumper finally got BCLUW (1-1, 0-1) on the board at the 1:38 mark, though East Marshall answered with six of the next eight points.

BCLUW settled down a bit in the second quarter though VanderWeerdt counted 16 first-half turnovers for his team.

“A turnover a minute, your winning percentage is going to be pretty low,” said VanderWeerdt. “We didn’t do a very good job of being strong with the ball and being quick, but not hurryingWe need to be fundamentally a lot better taking care of the ball and we need to make sure that we see and go through all our options before we make that decision.”

Pulling within 24-13 at the half, BCLUW closed within single digits twice early in the third. Mallory Vawter’s layup bridged the gap to 26-17, before five points from Allen and a transition bucket by Fritz pushed it back to 16 with 2:20 left in the quarter.

The Comets found some success with a press of their own, though the Mustangs were able to limit their mistakes after facing stiff defenses in their first two games against Class 2A No. 5 Hudson and Class 4A No. 10 Grinnell.

“In those games we saw a lot of full court pressure and so I felt we could handle a press and then we’ve been working on our own press,” said Pieters. “We saw the extremes. That definitely helped in starting the game tonight.”

Olivia Callaway led the Comets with 11 points and Ubben added eight. Kodi Marks scored seven and Vawter had six points before fouling out.

Leavy had seven points for the Mustangs, while Kristen Amendt, Fritz and Brooke Miller each chipped in six to help clinch Pieters’ first victory with the Mustangs.

“We expect more from our guards,” said the first-year East Marshall coach. “We have a nice post game with four different weapons though that stems around our guards getting them the ball. It was nice to see some other kids step in.”

The Mustangs travel to AGWSR Tuesday, while the Comets face Aplington-Parkersburg today in the NICL Holiday Classic at Wartburg College, before hosting Grundy Center Tuesday.