Connell girls basketball coach Kameron Jenks had to be thrilled with his guard play, not to mention the Eagles second half defense on Bailey Schroeder, Kiona-Bentons top scorer.
But what seemed to please Jenks to no end was the effort from post players Ashley Thompson, Michelle Schultz and Kylie Booker, who helped put the finishing touches on Connells 52-36 win over the Bears on Tuesday in Benton City.
The trio combined for 23 points and 19 rebounds, with most of their production coming in a critical second-half run that helped the Eagles (9-3, 4-0 SCAC East) put the game away.
If we can get our bigs involved, thats huge. Thompson has come a long way, and Booker came up big in the second half, Jenks said.
The SCAC East contest matched up the last two undefeated teams in league play, and the Eagles showed they are ready to reclaim the league title after finishing second to Ki-Be (7-4, 3-1) last season.
Everybody was excited to get out and play, said Schultz, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds in an all-around solid performance.
Schroeder was clearly the one to stop. The versatile all-league guard had 11 points at halftime, and her halfcourt steal and bucket near the end of the second quarter cut Connells lead to 23-22.
But the Eagles held her to just one field goal in the second half, a 3-pointer to open the scoring in the third quarter. That tied the game at 25, but she went 0-for-7 after that.
Our main focus was Bailey, Schultz said. We just tried to deny her the ball.
Schroeder finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, Thompson started to find her rhythm, hitting a pair of elbow jumpers to push Connells lead back up to 31-27. Then she made a steal, dribbled to the top of the key and dished off to Madison Riner for a bucket to fuel a 12-3 run that gave the Eagles a commanding 37-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Kody Easterday played a major role for Connell, too, collecting 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Easterday is our team leader. She played an all-around great game. She just does the right things for us, Jenks said.
With Schroeder shut down, the Bears had no one else to go to. After Schroeders third-quarter trey, Ki-Be missed their next 14 shots until Kayzin Holt grabbed an offensive rebound and scored the putback with 4:53 left in the game.
By then, the Bears trailed 42-32, and a final 12-4 run by Connell allowed the Eagles to win going away.
Thompson finished with nine points, nine rebounds and a blocked shot, anchoring a lineup that outrebounded Ki-Be 36-24.
Abby Pendergast added 10 points for the Bears, including a late 3-pointer that capped the teams scoring.
CONNELL M.Hawkins 3, Kody Easterday 12, English 5, Schultz 10, Thompson 9, Booker 4, Riner 5, Spencer. Totals 24-61 4-10 52.
KIONA-BENTON Holt 2, M.Calzadillas 1, Acevedo, Bailey Schroeder 18, J.Calzadillas 3, Pendergast 10, Thornton, Elliott 2. Totals 10-43 11-17 36.
Connell 9 16 12 17 52
Kiona-Benton 5 17 6 8 36
Stats Rebounds: 3-pointers: C 2 (Marcianne Hawkins, Shelby English), KB 5 (Schroeder 2, Abby Pendergast 2, Jaky Calzadillas), C 36 (Ashley Thompson 9), KB 24 (Schroeder 8); Turnovers: C 15, KB 13.