Wolves open season with dominant 62-27 win
Season openers tend to feature teams getting off to slow starts with sloppy play and little team chemistry.
However, that wasn't the case for the inexperienced Elmwood/Plum City Wolves girls basketball team on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
The Wolves went on a 17-0 run to start their 2017-2018 season in a nonconference game against the Gilmanton Panthers who couldn't stop EPC's multiple scoring options.
"That was a great start, and I think it even surprised the girls," EPC head coach Shaugn Laehn said.
EPC senior Lexi Diesing put up the first points of the night by sinking two free throws. Diesing also scored the first field goal of the night on a bunny.
Junior Alyssa Peterson followed her teammate's lead and pulled up at the free throw line for a quick jumper to give the Wolves a 6-0 lead.
EPC's Ellie Funk drove into the lane and dished the ball out to Tayler Whipple who hit a 15-foot jumper in the Wolves next possession to give them an 8-0 lead.
Diesing, Peterson and Funk each scored two-point buckets to extend the lead to 14-0 before Gilmanton's head coach Jamey Davis called his team's first timeout of the night with 13:26 left to go in the half.
The Panthers switched to a 2-3 zone defense after the huddle to try and stop EPC's lane presence, but Whipple showed Gilmanton that her team was also effective from outside by hitting a three-pointer and bringing the lead to 17-0.
Gilmanton finally managed to score their first points of the night with 11:56 left in the half after Funk fouled Marli Evans and sent her to the free throw line. The Panthers' Kaitlyn Johnson scored the first Gilmanton field goal of the night with 11:30 left in the half.
The Wolves transitioned to a 1-3-1 offense due to Gilmanton's 2-3 defense and forced shots and came up with few offensive rebounds early on, which narrowed their lead to 19-9.
Laehn used his first timeout of the night with 8:18 left in the first half.
"It was slow," Laehn said about his team's adjustment to the 2-3 zone, "especially when we haven't worked on that much. So, it's a good learning experience."
The Wolves continued to struggle with Gilmanton's zone defense late in the first half, but remained persistent on defense and held the Panthers to just 16 points at the halfway mark for a final 30-16 first-half score.
The Wolves came out with a little less gusto in the second half than they did to begin the game, but Peterson brought some energy to EPC by hitting a quick three-pointer at the top of the key in EPC's 1-3-1 offense.
The junior guard participated in EPC's 10,000 shots club over the summer and said that she put a lot of shots up to prepare for the season. She finished with 17 points, nine of which came from behind the three-point arc.
"I feel confident, and I trust my teammates," Peterson said about playing point guard and running her team's offense.
"Alyssa has really taken on a leadership role as far as a point guard goes," Laehn said. "She had some experience last year, but with all of the seniors that we had last year I think she played only intermittently."
Laehn said that the Wolves team will rely on Peterson's point play this season.
Peterson's team managed to extended its lead to 43-21, but Laehn was not satisfied with his team's effort and called a timeout with 9:46 left on the clock.
"We were just throwing the ball up, and it was starting to get a little out of hand," Laehn said.
The Wolves were calmed down after Laehn's huddle and were able to break Gilmanton's zone defense by making good passes and connecting from the high to low post positions.
"We're trying to stress being disciplined and knowing not to throw that pass, and they do it anyways," Laehn said. "That's kind of one of the things this year, knowing what the right thing to do is and to do it."
The Wolves went on a 6-2 run behind Katie Feuker tying up loose balls and Funk and Diesing continuing to find each other in the high and low post positions, which forced Davis to call his second timeout of the night with just over six minutes left in the game.
Davis tried to find some fight left in his team, but opted to subbing in his reserves when his team was down by 30 with four minutes left in the game. Laehn also subbed in his bench players who outscored the Panthers 7-2 for a final score of 62-27.
Diesing led the Wolves in scoring with 18 points, Peterson added 17 and Whipple contributed 11 points of her own.
The Wolves will try to continue their winning streak on Monday, Nov. 20 against Eleva-Strum. Until then, aside from getting more zone offense repetition, Laehn said his team will be working on handling pressure, which he said his team didn't have to worry about in Tuesday night's game, but said, "It's going to happen in nine out of 10 games we play, so we'll have to be ready for that."