Jeff Cali Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ada News
The East Central Lady Tigers have found themselves in more than their fair share of tight contests through the first half of the 2012-13 season.
But Thursday night against Arkansas-Monticello certainly wasn't one of them.
ECU used a 15-1 surge in the early minutes of the game to take control, forged an impressive 37-19 halftime lead and cruised to a 74-45 win over the Cotton Blossoms inside the Kerr Activities Center.
East Central won its sixth straight game to improve to 9-2 overall and 4-1 in Great American Conference play, while Monticello left town at 2-8 and 0-5.
ECU's past eight games had been decided by single digits, and seven of those outcomes had been decided by five points or less.
So veteran head coach Kent Franz didn't exactly know how to act while watching his team win by nearly 30 points.
"It was nice. I was quite nervous at halftime, if you want to know the truth," he said. "We've had a couple of games similar to that this year, and we've found a way to let the other team back in it.
"Today, coming out of the halftime locker room, I thought our defense was good enough to seal the deal."
Actually, ECU's defense began to seal the deal much, much earlier.
The Lady Tigers trailed 4-0 after the first minute of action but used a 15-1 run to grab a double-digit lead (15-5) after four straight points by Lindsay McCown over a six-minute stretch. During that big run, Arkansas-Monticello was 0-for-10 from the floor and was out-rebounded 13-6 by a tenacious Lady Tiger effort. In fact, the Cotton Blossoms went over 10 minutes without a field goal in the cold start.
East Central then dominated the final 5:11 of the first half. A steal and bucket by Monticello's Demetra Howlingwolf trimmed the ECU lead to 24-15. But the Lady Tigers used a 13-4 surge leading up to halftime to push their lead to 18. Senior Kodi Morrison scored nine of her game-high 13 points during that ECU spurt.
The Cotton Blossoms hit just 8-of-35 field goals during the first 20 minutes (including an 0-for-7 showing from the 3-point stripe) and were outrebounded 33-18.
"I was really pleased with our defensive effort in the first half," Franz said. "It's in my pregame speech every time. No matter what happens on the offensive end, if we will guard — if we'll have hands in shooters' faces — then we have a chance to get some transition stuff the other way, and we won't have to worry about setting up any offense."
The Cotton Blossoms never threatened in the second half. A 3-pointer by former Ada High standout Erin Walling gave the Lady Tigers their biggest lead at 68-38 with 5:12 to play in the game.
"Our defense was good enough early to get us some separation, and we were able to hold that separation throughout the contest," Franz said.
ECU ended with a lopsided 57-33 rebounding edge.
"I felt like us limiting them to one shot on their offensive end was huge in the outcome of the ballgame," Franz said.
Four other players joined Morrison in double figures for the Lady Tigers, including three players with double-doubles. Alycea Price had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Ashley Robison had 10 points and 12 boards while McCown added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Regan Browne scored 10 points off the bench for the hosts.
No Monticello player hit double digits, but Raija McWright scored nine point off the bench. The Cotton Blossoms were without senior point guard Candace Virgadamo, who missed the game with a head injury.
East Central is back in action Thursday at Northwestern, the start of a three-game road stretch.