By Jarit Cluse Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — SHOALS — The Lady Cardinals came into Shoals on Saturday looking to rebound from a tough loss against the ranked Lady Vikings, but instead they found a Shoals team which was more than ready to defend its home turf.
Washington Catholic (1-9) took an early lead in the first quarter only to see it melt away like the snow outside and see Shoals dominate the rest of the game, before coming away the 57-41 victory.
Washington Catholic opened the game with a 5-2 lead with Elizabeth Perkins leading the way. Shoals then began to get out in transition and match the Cardinals basket for basket. WC was still able to hold onto their advantage and where up two midway through the first.
Caitlin Sanders for Shoals hit a three the next trip down the court and gave the Jug Rox their first lead. Washington Catholic tried to slow the game back down to a tempo they like and spread the floor on Shoals. This seemed to backfire as Shoals got out in transition after two WC missed shots and the hot shooting of Nicole Harder for Shoals gave the Jug Rox a 14-10 advantage after the first quarter.
The second quarter is one that WC and Coach Mike Hopkins would like to have back. The combination of early foul trouble and turnovers allowed Shoals to get out to a large lead. Washington Catholic started the quarter with the ball but was unable to get a look at the basket on seven straight possessions.
“We had a little spell where we just basically imploded. A lot of things went against us like offensive fouls and Shoals getting out in transition. It just really took us out of groove,” Hopkins said.
While Washington Catholic couldn’t find the basket Shoals guard Nicole Harder couldn’t seem to miss it. After Washington Catholics third turnover of the quarter Harder hit a three and converted a three point play. After a 12-0 Jug Rox run the Lady Cardinals were down 16 midway through the second. Mary Anne Wichman was able to stop the bleeding by getting to the free throw line and hit two free throws to cut the lead to 14. But Shoals would not stop attacking in transition and was able to match the Lady Cardinals basket for basket to keep their lead intact. Sydney Dunbar hit a layup for the Lady Cardinals with 35 seconds left and Wichman drew two straight fouls on Shoals to get into the bonus to end the quarter on a 5-2 run for Washington Catholic. The Lady Jug Rox lead at halftime was 39-23.
After half, WC was able to force Shoals into two quick turnovers but were unable to convert on those looks. Foul trouble would bite Perkins again. After sitting out the second quarter due to her third foul Perkins picked up her fourth foul quickly in the third. Instead of sitting her Coach Hopkins decided to roll the dice and kept Perkins in. The gamble paid off as Perkins was able to still get to the basket and create scoring for Washington Catholic. Shoals picked their press back up late in the third quarter and forced Washington Catholic into three straight turnovers and took a comfortable 48-29 advantage into the fourth.
The fourth quarter saw Nicole Harder continue her shooting barrage as she opened the quarter with a quick basket. Mary Anne Wichman had seen enough. She opened the Lady Cardinals scoring on a three pointer and then a quick hustle play by Wichman on the defensive end allowed her to draw a foul on Shoals and get the free throw line to give Washington Catholic a quick 5-0 run. At that point the Lady Cardinals were in the bonus and Wichman and Perkins were able to take advantage.
Just when it seemed like the momentum was going the Lady Cardinals way though the transition attack of Shoals stymied any run that the Cardinals were able to make. Shoals took the victory 57-41 to move to 2-8. When asked how he would attack back to back tough games Hopkins said, “We are going to go back to high energy practices. We are going to just go back to the absolute fundamentals again. We are going to just go at it and continue to work hard.”
Shoals was led by Harder with 17 and 12 each from Ashton Allbright and Caitlin Sanders. The Lady Cardinals were led by Mary Anne Wichman with 20 and 17 from Perkins. Sydney Dunbar and Kasey Ivy rounded out the Lady Cardinal scoring with two points for each of them.