By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Force a team to make decisions early and often and make those choices quick and a basketball team can cause a lot of problems for an opponent.
That’s exactly what the Badger girls basketball team did to St. John in a 49-26 non-conference victory at Mahoney Gymnasium on Saturday.
The Braves forced the Heralds to turn the ball over 42 times.
“That was our best defensive game we played this year,” Badger coach Dusty Karr said. “We rebounded the ball well, too. That was our best defensive effort.
“We extended the pressure to full court. We wanted them to start making decisions when they were 80 feet from the basket. When they start making decisions back there, they have a hard time getting into their offensive sets. Usually, an offensive set doesn’t start in the backcourt.”
Harlee Logan stole the ball nine times as Badger had 28 thefts as a team.
“The turnovers kept piling up,” St. John coach Nick Iarocci said. “They play hard man defense. No girl ran from the basketball, though.
“I give Emily Powers a lot of credit. When a team’s playing hard man like that, it’s easy to say you’re not open. Emily went and found the ball.”
Though they struggled, it was a good opportunity for the Heralds (4-4) to learn.
“We joined a league this year and we had to make a lot of decisions on which teams to keep on the schedule. Badger is an outstanding program. It would have been easy to drop them. But I wanted to play them and the girls wanted to play them.
“Our goal is to win the league and to do that, it’s important to play teams like Badger. Badger is old-school basketball. It’s Xs and Os and hard man defense. They try and turn you and they do it well.”
Through the first six and a half minutes, it looked as if the Braves were in for a dogfight. Then the bottom dropped out. Taylor Kramar scored twice in the final minute of the opening period to give Badger a 12-8 advantage. It was downhill from there.
Kramar scored eight of her team-high 13 points in the first eight minutes.
“(Get steals and break-away layups) really jumpstarts any offense,” Karr said. “When you have that, you can play loose. Taylor does a great job. She’s really good in the open floor.”
Stacey Elser scored all six of her points in the final four minutes of the half as the Braves took a 24-10 lead at the break.
During the 16-minute stretch that encompassed the second and third quarters, Badger allowed just seven points and forced 21 turnovers. The Heralds were just 2 of 16 (12.5 percent) from the field during that stretch.
Much of that was the direct result of the Heralds not taking the ball into the paint following a devastating block by Logan midway through the first quarter.
“We don’t give up too much in the pain with Harlee in there,” Karr said. “She’s a presence in the post and I know Nick had to gameplan a lot for just one person. It’s nice to have that one transcendent person.”
“She’s an outstanding basketball player,” Iarocci said. “She’s the real deal. She’s only a sophomore. I’ll definitely be following her career.
“She blocked that shot early and it set the tone for the entire game.”
Logan finished with eight points.
Rae Ann Benedict used a solid effort from the charity stripe (5 of 6) to lead St. John with 10 points. Powers finished with eight. Benedict and Mackenzie Stenroos each had 10 rebounds for the Heralds.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.