Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team debuts with 65-26 win over Sikeston

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Saxony Lutheran’s Reagan Wieser takes a shot over Sikeston’s Miranda Harrison during the Crusaders’ win over the Bulldogs on Tuesday at Saxony Lutheran High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

Freshmen help spark Saxony Lutheran to 65-26 rout of Sikeston in season opener

Any questions Saxony Lutheran coach Sam Sides harbored about his freshman-dominated girls basketball team were answered quickly Tuesday night.

The Crusaders used a suffocating full-court press and persistent inside game to dispose of Sikeston 65-26 in the season opener for both teams.

Saxony numbers 12 freshmen on its roster, and Sides started three of them Tuesday night.

"We needed to play somebody and find out where we're at, find out what our weaknesses were," Sides said.

There weren't many. Playing in front of their home fans, the Crusaders broke open a close game early, turning a 5-4 lead into a 22-6 cushion after the first period. When Saxony wasn't getting the ball inside to freshman Reagan Wieser, who scored six of her 11 points in the first quarter, they were pressuring the ball relentlessly in the frontcourt, a number of steals leading directly to layups.

When the beleaguered Bulldogs looked up, Saxony had rattled off runs of 9-0 and 8-0 in the second quarter for a 41-12 halftime lead.

For all intents and purposes, the game was over.

"We're trying to move the ball and look inside every chance we get and find the open person," Sides said. "We work on that all the time."

He needn't have worried about his young troops becoming shellshocked on the high school stage. Most of his freshmen played at two feeder programs -- St. Paul in Jackson and Trinity in Cape Girardeau -- that competed in the Lutheran grade school national tournament the past two years.

"They've been in pretty high-level games before," Sides said. "The intensity was great. I was kind of concerned about our execution, especially on offense, but I thought we did an excellent job sharing the ball and helping each other."

Freshman guard Brianna Mueller admitted to some pre-game butterflies.

"Oh yeah! Tons of jitters," she laughed. "I just had to shake it off and play my game."

She did, to the tune of a game-high 15 points that included three 3-pointers.

"I was so excited," Mueller added. "I just didn't know what to expect, but I knew I had to play hard since I was a freshman and everything, and just do what I had to do.

"After the first few minutes I was like, 'It's just a regular basketball game. I got this. Just play like I know how.'"

Saxony's relentless defensive pressure set the tone for the night, leading to 34 Sikeston turnovers, including 22 steals by the Crusaders.

"I've got 10-11 girls that can play, and we don't drop off much when they come off the bench," Sides said. "We need to keep pressure on them all the time and use that as a weapon. Maybe [the opposition] will get a little tired at the end of the game, or close to the end of the game they're going to be fatigued, and we'll still have some fresh legs out there. I think we can do that."

Sikeston coach Matt Schonoff said the constant full-court pressure took his team somewhat by surprise.

"I didn't expect the pressure, but at the same time we've been working on our press offense from the beginning of practice all the way until last night, and sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and we speed up. [When that happens] sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen. And tonight, more bad things happened than good things."

Senior Natalie Mueller added 11 points for Saxony, mostly coming inside or on offensive rebounds.

"I was concerned about finishing inside," Sides said. "Taking the ball to the basket, we were a little bit out of control a few times and forced things a few times. That's something we've got improve on. We've got to read situations a little better."

Senior Lauren Hecht, who scored seven points, appreciates what her new teammates bring to the court.

"You can't really tell that we have young people, I don't think. It doesn't really show," Hecht said. "They bring hard work and competitiveness. Everything's really competitive in practice."

Sides said there's still things his team can work on, like limiting turnovers. The Crusaders committed 21.

"They're a pretty physical team, and we're a physical team," Sides said. "It's just something you've got to deal with and take care of the basketball. I thought we made a few unforced errors really when they were off us. ... Those are things we can hopefully work out as the season goes on."

Saxony Lutheran 65, Sikeston 26

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SIKESTON (26) -- Tyra Bonner 2, Aleah Little 6, Mikala Nichols 8, Erica Peet 4, Brianna Sherrell 3, Trenice Greer 1, Yolanda Johnson 2. FG 11, FT 3-4, F 18. (3-pointers: Sherrell 1. Fouled out: Sherrell.)

SAXONY LUTHERAN (65) -- Abby Hadler 6, Grace Mirly 2, Brianna Mueller 15, Natalie Mueller 11, Lauren Hecht 17, Tess Daniel 9, Reagan Wieser 11, Maddie Brune 4. FG 27, FT 6-15, F 11. (3-pointers: B. Mueller 3, Hecht 1.)

JV -- Saxony Lutheran 54, Sikeston 15.

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