One year ago, the West Deptford High School girls' basketball team was overmatched in just about every category you could find against Gloucester Catholic in a game that resulted in a 31-point defeat for the Eagles.
This time around, the Eagles competed all over the floor and fought and clawed for everything they got against the Rams. The result was still a loss, but the feelings of the players and coaching staff after the game show that not all losses are created equal.
“It’s a good feeling,” West Deptford coach J McKeown said after Gloucester Catholic pulled out a 43-38 win in the opening round of the Gloucester Catholic Christmas Tournament. “I was just telling the girls that it’s hard to feel good when you lose, but you know you have gotten somewhere from last year. It’s clear we made some strides.”
Gloucester Catholic never led by more than six points and West Deptford had the lead for a good chunk of the game, including taking a 24-22 lead into halftime. The Eagles were aided by a press defense that forced 11 first-half turnovers. West Deptford also showed a zone look in the second half that threw the Rams out of rhythm and kept the Eagles within striking distance.
“I thought we played well, we played tough the whole game,” said Danielle McKeown, who finished with 11 points. “It was a lot better than last year when they blew us out.”
Gloucester Catholic led just 34-33 after three quarters, but stretched the lead out to six by scoring five-straight to open the fourth. West Deptford senior Tarryn Bundy got a pair of baskets to bring the Eagles within 39-37 with 3:34 left. From there the Eagles went cold, scoring just one point the rest of the way, while turning the ball over twice and missing three-out-of-four free throws.
“They were all good shots, it’s just the matter that they didn’t fall,” Danielle McKeown said.
“It’s one of those games where if they miss one of their threes and we hit one of ours, that’s a six-point swing and we are the ones sitting on the ball down the stretch,“ J McKeown said. “I told (the girls), that’s a good game. You are finally in a good game down the stretch with a team you have never beat.”
The coach said his players bought fully into his system and the results showed.
“The kids bought into everything I said and really tried,” McKeown said. “There were so many different things that we don’t do well, that we did better this game and some things that we have never done better, so that was good.”
Those things included going to a 1-3-1 zone on defense and working on an offensive system that stressed keeping the ball in certain players hands.
“Defensively, we really held them, and they weren’t getting as many shots off,” said Bundy, who had a team-high 14 points. “We gave them a lot of problems around mid-court with our press, and offensively we did a good job holding the ball and being patient.”
West Deptford will face another stiff test on Wednesday when it takes on Cherry Hill East in the consolation game. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Gloucester Catholic.