MECCA - It all seemed a bit off. Possibly, a bit too bizarre so to speak.
For both the Maplewood Rockets and the Grand Valley Mustangs, their offenses normally run off of Brook Dawson and Jessica Vormelker, respectively.
So, when Dawson scored the first eight points for the Rockets while the rest of the team was scoreless, at least on paper it seemed the Mustangs were shutting down everyone else.
The only problem was, Vormelker wasn't getting much of anything to go in as she was held scoreless in the opening quarter and didn't get her first bucket until less than two minutes left in the third quarter.
"We like to try and play good team defense," Maplewood coach Mark Yoder said. "We always try to play our best defensive player on their best offensive player. It was Vicky Karlovic's job to guard her for most of the game. I think she got 10 of her 12 points there in the fourth quarter. Team-wise, we did a good job playing defense on her."
It described, in essence, the tale of two halves as Maplewood beat the Mustangs, 43-36, in a Northeastern Athletic Conference game.
"I don't think it was necessarily anything they did," Grand Valley coach Kim Triskett said. "They play full court. We know they are going to pressure you in that look. I thought we responded well despite a lot of turnovers. They were more of the unforced variety. We tried to force too many things."
It wasn't as if the Mustangs (8-4, 3-4) weren't making buckets as they shot 44 percent from the field compared to the 31 percent by Maplewood (10-2, 5-2). Crunching the numbers closer shows the Rockets had five less field goals than the Mustangs, but went to the charity stripe 19 more times and made 18 more of those opportunities.
After that 11-9 opening quarter where Dawson (17 points) had the first eight points and a double-double at the half with 11 of her game-high 13 rebounds, the Rockets built upon their lead despite making only three field goals in the second quarter and just four in the second half.
"We still made a lot of mistakes that we have to clean up," Yoder said. "We had too many turnovers. It also felt like we missed a lot of open shots and missed a lot of free throws."
Leading 32-24 going into the final quarter, Vormelker (12 points) started draining some buckets, but it was too little too late as they came midway through the final stanza despite one field goal by the Rockets and 8-of-15 shooting from the free throw line down the stretch.
"We had looks," Triskett said. "We had opportunities. Now, we are getting those shots. The next step, obviously, is to make them. We did a lot of good things though. We put ourselves in a position to be right there."