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Mathews makes early lead stand up vs. Kennedy

VIENNA — It was a tale of two halves when the John F. Kennedy Eagles girls basketball team visited the Mathews Mustangs on Wednesday.

The Mustangs jumped out to a big halftime lead before the Eagles battled back in the second half. In the end, Mathews prevailed, 47-41.

It was also a matchup between two first-year head coaches. Sean Zekkour leads JFK (0-4), while Steve Sponsler has taken over the helm at Mathews (2-2).

“The girls are doing well,” Sponsler said. “We’ve put in a whole new system with it being my first year. Coach (Aaron) Pounds gave us a good start, but I’ve pretty much changed everything. We’re working at it slowly.”

The Mustangs didn’t waste any time as they built a 16-6, lead at the end of the first quarter. Mathews sophomore point guard Brooke Bauer had a strong performance in the opening frame as she scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the quarter.

Each team struggled to find the bottom of the net in the second. Jorja Bonar nailed one from behind the arc for Mathews. The Mustangs outscored the Eagles 9-2 in the quarter to take a 25-8 advantage into the locker room.

“We played as a team tonight,” Sponsler said. “I’ve been preaching physicality. We were physical in the first half. We shared the ball. I’m proud of them. JFK came out in the second half, and stuck with it, and played hard.”

The Eagles ramped up the intensity in the third. Kennedy junior Faith Hollobaugh scored five of her team-high 14 points in the quarter as the Eagles climbed back into the contest.

“Our slow, sluggish start, definitely put us in a hole,” Zekkour said. “If we would have maintained a little bit more composure, and got after it on the defensive end, been more aggressive on offense, the first half would have been different.

“We outscored them by 13 in the second half. So, it’s obviously a tale of two halves. I need the girls to play four quarters. That’s going to be key for us moving forward. We want to improve every game.”

JFK nearly came all the way back as the Eagles outscored Mathews 21-10 in the fourth. Senior Jenna Sajnovsky (10 points), and sophomores Lucy Whetzel (9 points), and Julia Toth (7 points) sparked the comeback.

However, Mathews senior Ashley Deans (15 points) drilled a pair from downtown in the fourth to help seal the victory.

“We were coming off of two really tough losses,” Deans said. “We came in with the mindset to play like a team. We wanted to share the ball, and find the open girl. We wanted to push, and really focus on defense. We wanted to let our defense transfer over to our offense.

“I think we did a really great job of that. We want to have fun, and make the best of the games we’re able to play this year.”

Both teams play again tonight as Mathews hosts Cardinal while Kennedy travels to St. Thomas Aquinas.

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