By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
Mt. Pleasant gave the defending Southeast Conference champions quite the sweat in Friday night?s Southeast Conference opener, but the Fairfield girls were able to hold off a late Panther run to stay unbeaten with a 53-48 win.
The story for the Panthers early on was offensive rebounds. Mt. Pleasant was able to consistantly get offensive boards and put the pressure on the Trojans throughout the first quarter. Maddie Williamson, Isabel Ashton and Sadie Carrasco scored three points apiece and the Panthers led Fairfield 9-8, despite four early points from Trojan star Nicole Buch.
The two teams continued to battle in the second quarter. Fairfield stayed close, partially due to four second-quarter points from Kara Jeffrey, but the Trojans couldn?t get many outside shots to fall and the Panthers held a close lead in the final minute.
Just before halftime, however, Fairfield?s Destiny Gridley was fouled on a three-pointer. She hit all three shots from the chairty stripe and gave the Trojans a 22-20 lead at the break.
Fairfield?s outside shooting heated up in the second quarter. Ashley Bloomquist drained a couple of three-pointers and Shaylin Drish added one as the Trojans ran their lead up to double digits.
Mt. Pleasant wasn?t going away without a fight, however. Kalynn Batey, who didn?t score in the first half, came alive with 13 third-quarter points to get the Panthers back within single digits. After three periods, Fairfield led 41-35.
The Panthers used pressure defense and an eight-point fourth quarter to keep it close late in the game, but the Trojans hit their free throws to hold off Mt. Pleasant until the final buzzer.
After the game, Fairfield head coach Brian Witzenburg said the team?s intensity in the second half led to the win, and commended his team for getting consistant scoring throughout the rotation. Buch was held to a relatively low 12 points, meaning other players had to step up.
?Whenever you play against good teams, you?re going to have to have stuff from other people,? Witzenburg said. ?Other people are going to have to step up, (and) for Kara Jeffrey to have eight for us, that?s big.?
Buch?s 12 points led the Trojans. Bloomquist finished with nine points. Jeffrey and Ashton Drish each had eight. Gridley and A. Drish finished with six points apiece, and Malory Jones scored four.
Williamson led the Panthers with 14 points and three assists. Batey had 15 points and seven rebounds to give Mt. Pleasant two double-digit scorers. Ashton finished with nine points. Carrasco had four, and both Taylor Murray and Emma Huckabone scored two.
?We just didn?t come out with any intensity in the second half,? Mt. Pleasant head coach Curt Watson said after the game. ?I think that was a big key. We told them at halftime that we had to come out with some pressure and let them know we?re here to play. We didn?t do a good job in the first three minutes.?
Fairfield moved to 3-0 after the win, and ran their record up to 4-0 with a win over Waterloo West the next day. Mt. Pleasant fell to 1-2 with the loss.