It had been nearly a month since the Crowder Lady 'Riders stepped foot on a basketball court in a game that counted — the last time was Dec. 8 to be exact — so there was some noticeable rust when they hit the floor against North Central Missouri on Wednesday at Bob Sneller Gymnasium.
Despite some roughness around the edges, the Lady 'Riders were a much better team in the second half as they pulled away from the Lady Pirates and won the game, 79-70.
A sluggish first half left the Lady 'Riders trailing 35-32 at the intermission. They came alive at the start of the second half, however, as they took off on an 11-0 run spanning the first six minutes of the half to go in front, 43-35. That streak set the tone for the second half as they received 13 points off the bench from freshman guard Dorian Briggs and 11 from starting forward Veronica Amos, a 6-foot sophomore.
"We talked about in the locker room after the game that the two things that we need to do as a team is to get better rebounding and defensively," Crowder coach Tina Robbins said. "We did a better job tonight rebounding wise, but defensively we've got a ways to go.
"In the second half our effort was a lot better, but we shouldn't be giving up 70 points in a game."
Crowder rattled in 47 second half points, but it was the defense, or lack thereof, that concerned Robbins.
"We got a win, but what we try to focus on is giving your best effort every time you step out on the floor, and playing smart and doing the things that we ask you to do," Robbins said. "And then the winning and losing will take care of itself. We did win tonight, but I'm not really pleased with our defensive effort. We've got to get a lot better in that area."
Robbins said the long layoff, too long in her book, had an effect on her team.
"We're out of shape," she said. "We're not in game shape. They had 12 days at home, which is a little too long, and we're trying to get back in shape, which affects the defensive end and getting up and down the floor."
Much of North Central's damage in the first half was caused by the inside presence of Amanda Rodenberg, a 6-foot sophomore forward, who poured in 14 points in the half. Meanwhile, Lady Pirates sophomore Kelsey Griffin, a 5'7 guard, buried a pair of 3-pointers in the half to keep them in front.
Crowder's Megan Ritter helped carry the load for the Lady 'Riders in the meantime as she scored 12 of her 16 points in the game in the first half, keeping Crowder in it.
Page 2 of 2 - North Central threatened to get back in it midway through the second half when Griffin buried her third 3-pointer of the game to cut the deficit to six points (63-57), but Crowder's Sarah Sagely answered with a rainmaker of her own on the ensuing possession to make it 66-57 and snuff out the momentum.
A good bit of news for the Lady 'Riders was their dominance on the boards, particularly on the offensive side where they ripped down 28 offensive rebounds compared to 26 on defense. That dominance played a key role for them in the second half.
Camila Lacerda turned in a steady offensive performance for the Lady 'Riders with nine points in each half to lead the team with 18 points, six assists and three steals. Amos finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Ritter turned in 16 points. Briggs tossed in 13 points, nine boards and three assists. Sagely had seven points and three steals while Seleena Neal scored four points, and Caprese Marshall and Chloe Nichols each added two.
Rodenberg led the Lady Pirates with 20 points while Griffin pitched in 12, Whitney Bennett 11, Samone Reddit and Mysti Williams 10, Kristin Hasting five and Alex Goodwin two.
Crowder (12-3) travels to take on Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa (Tonkawa, Okla.) at 3 p.m. Saturday.