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La Salle-Peru girls basketball coach Hollis Vickery felt his team could have played better defense in the first half Friday.
“Our zone was a little bit porous,” Vickery said. “We didn’t get into our traps. We didn’t make the dribblers go East and West — we let them split the middle and get up the sides.”
So Vickery switched to a man-to-man defense at halftime.
The adjustment worked as the Lady Cavaliers forced five consecutive turnovers to spark a 9-0 run to open the second half that helped L-P turn a four-point halftime lead into a 46-34 victory over Streator in a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division game in La Salle.
“We helped trap a lot,” L-P sophomore Jena Argubright said. “We were trying to move our feet and be aggressive in the second half — really go after the ball and not foul them. We were trying to work together and anticipate passes.”
After forcing a turnover on Streator’s first possession of the half, L-P sophomore Ellie Senica started the run with a three-point play off a putback.
Jena Argubright then got a steal and a layup before scoring again on an assist from Senica. Senior Brianna Argubright capped the run with a fast break layup on an assist from classmate Mia Porter.
“I’m 100 percent sure (the run) was because of the man defense,” Vickery said. “We needed to put good ball pressure and good pressure on all the offense, and that’s what we did. We put excellent pressure on the ball, we had some good traps, stopped them from getting up the sideline and we made them hurry a little more than they wanted.”
The 9-0 run gave the Lady Cavs a 29-16 lead. L-P led by double digits the rest of the way.
The Lady Cavs forced more turnovers (34) than they allowed shots (31).
“We gave them some chances and opportunities by not playing good defense that first half, but that’s my fault because I should have went right to man-to-man,” Vickery said. “We played very good man-to-man in the fourth quarter against Ottawa (on Tuesday) and throughout the season in stints we’ve been playing man-to-man.
“I wasn’t sold on us being a man-to-man team at the start of the year, but more and more we’re improving in that regard, so who knows what we’re going to do next week.”
Offensively, the Lady Cavs were balanced with leading scorer Brittany Zawacki limited to just three points due to Streator’s box-and-one.
Jena Argubright led L-P with 10 points. Freshman Madison Held had nine, Porter and Brianna Argubright each scored six and Senica and classmate Hannah Wolfe each added five.
“I think we did well,” Jena Argubright said. “Even with the box-and-one, we still moved the ball around and set picks to get each other up. We instinctively knew when to cut and who was open and we really connected.”
The win improves the Lady Cavs to 7-12 overall and 2-5 in the conference.
The seven victories are the most victories under Vickery and the most for the program since 2006-07 when the Lady Cavs went 11-13 under Mark Haberkorn.
“We’re really happy because it shows how much we’re improving throughout the years and we’re really coming together,” Jena Argubright said.
Vickery said L-P is hoping to match or better the 2006-07 season.
“Right now, it feels like it’s epic,” Vickery said of reaching seven wins. “I told the girls the most wins in the last 13 years is 11 and we still have that in sight. That’s still a reachable goal. It’s not going to be easy. We have to play well. We want to get going toward the regional and gather some momentum.”
Note: The L-P sophomore team won 50-26.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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