Things couldn’t have started much better for the West Deptford High School girls’ basketball team Thursday afternoon.
The Eagles were sharing the basketball, knocking down shots and playing stingy defense. It all added up to a 14-2 advantage over a Cherry Hill East team that competes in the Olympic Conference.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the rest of the game didn’t go nearly as well.
The Cougars put together an 18-0 run bridging the second and third quarters, carrying them to a 37-30 win in the opening round of the
West Deptford Holiday Hoops Tournament.
East, which picked up its first victory of the season, will be back in action today when it takes on Gloucester Catholic in the finals at 3 p.m. West Deptford will take on Sterling in the consolation game at 1 p.m.
“In the first quarter our posts were working together, we were running out pushing the ball up the floor and then I think we just hit a block at some point,” said first-year West Deptford coach Casey Heitman. “I think some of our inexperience came back to get us. Some of the girls in the past would have known to brush it off and move on, but I think it just snowballed for us and we couldn’t dig ourselves out of it.”
Freshman Yamalis Villegas led the Cougars with 13 points and provided quality defense as East turned a 16-3 deficit into a 21-16 advantage early in the third quarter.
“All we really had to do was focus, gather ourselves and start concentrating on the defensive end,” said Villegas. “As a team, we had to get all the energy we had as a group and leave it on the court.”
The Cougars were able to stifle the Eagles after the first quarter thanks to defensive pressure which forced West Deptford into nine turnovers in the second quarter.
“Putting pressure on the ball is important,” said East coach Kim Keyack. “We have fast guards and we have to take advantage of that. We can’t suit back and let the game come to us, we have to make something happen. When you play good defense it gets the energy flowing on the team and that turns into automatic points.”
Michelle Bower and Gabby Minnite provided some bright spots for the Eagles, each contributing eight points and five blocks. However, West Deptford (1-4) very much resembled a team that was without a single starter from a year ago. Heitman admits that it may take some time before the squad is able to form its own identity but said she has seen progress on a daily basis.
“I think it’s going to take us a while,” Heitman said. “One of the things we have been talking about is learning something new everyday. They really are learning a lot. I know the record may not show it, but from the first game until now they have learned a lot, defensively and offensively. It’s just putting it together. They are learning so much that it doesn’t come natural to them. It’s just going to take time.”
To see more coverage of yesterday's game, visit the West Deptford vs. Cherry Hill East gallery.