The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

January 4, 2013

Turning up the D

Defensive pressure limits Leopards’ offense in Falcons’ AAC win

JEFFERSON — A basketball team can’t score if it doesn’t shoot the ball. And for at least the first 16 minutes against Liberty, Jefferson’s main objective seemed to be to keep the Leopards from taking a single shot.

The Falcons limited the Leopards’ opportunities enough to roll to a 56-36 victory Thursday night at Falcon Gymnasium.

Jefferson (5-5, 1-3 in All-American Conference) limited Liberty to just 14 shot attempts in the first half and forced 23 turnovers — 16 on steals — in building a 39-14 lead by the break.

“The first half, I was really happy with our defense,” Jefferson coach Rod Holmes said. “I thought we played really good defense. We put a lot of pressure on them. They didn’t get too many open looks.”

“We couldn’t handle the pressure early,” Liberty coach Ron DeJulio said. “We started slow. We were sluggish. Their pressure had something to do with it, but their pressure didn’t have as much (as us being sluggish) to do with it.

“We knew what they were going to do and we practiced for it. I am proud of the way we played in the second half.”

The formula was quite simple for the Falcons. Take away Liberty point guard Leah Leshnack and force other people to have to make plays with the ball.

“Our approach to the game was take out their best player, which was (Leshnack) and see if they could get the ball down the floor,” Jefferson point guard Jessica Becker said. “We pretty much worked on face-guarding in practice. (2012 Jefferson graduate) Rachel Francis came back and practiced as (Leshnack). We practiced face-guarding Rachel so we would have a feel for the speed and intensity we had to play at.”

Guard Deanna Comp drew the assignment of holding Leshnack down and was successful in the venture.

“We weren’t looking for steals,” Comp, who still stole the ball six times, said. “We just wanted to pressure her and make her pass.

“Playing against somebody different in practice makes you play with more intensity.”

With Comp pressuring the Leopards’ point guard, the remainder of the Falcons had a plethora of opportunities to steal passes.

“Dee was the primary girl guarding her,” Holmes said. “We switched well. I thought we played really good defense, especially in the first half.

“That allows everybody else to pick up steals on passes. That’s why Dee is such a team player. Dee made her pick up (the dribble) and the others stepped up and took the passes away.”

LeeAnn Farr led the Falcons with 20 points and 13 rebounds, fueling the Jefferson offense early.

“She hit some shots for us,” Holmes said. “She got us going early. She made shots in the third quarter when we were having trouble scoring a little bit.”

Sarah Busch added nine points and Becker and Comp each scored eight.

Kim Staples paced the Leopards (2-10, 0-6) with 15 points and Leshnack added seven.       

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Jefferson.

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