By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion girls basketball team defeated Jacksonville 45-30 to begin its play in the 2022 Taylorville Thanksgiving Tournament. Denver Anderson led all scorers with 21 points, dished seven assists, grabbed eight rebounds and made 11 steals.
The Braves’ offense started off their first possession as Anderson found Naomi Schmahl who nailed the mid-range jumper to start the game 2-0. The Braves’ defense went into their full court press right after and were able to swarm the Crimson’ offense with Anderson and Jocelyn Turner making steals.
Despite the swarming defense and Turner and Anderson grabbing offensive boards the Braves failed to score on their next two possessions. Anderson got on the scoreboard when she grabbed her first offensive rebound and made the putback layup to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.
The Braves ended the first quarter ahead 13-4. In the second quarter, the Crimson and Braves both scored 11 points each that ended in a Braves’ 24-15 lead going into the third quarter.
“We’re playing how I want to play,” Head coach Steve Marvel said. “I want to press, I want to push the ball, we didn’t have the depth last year to do that. It was a new system, there were injuries and illnesses and we didn’t have the depth. This year I can go 10-12 players deep and we’re able to pressure the ball and get kids out when they’re tired. We still have kids that are working hard there’s not drop off. There’s positive things that are going on, the effort, the energy, the attitude, those are things we talk about a lot, you know that they control their energy, and that’s what we want to do. We want to control our controllers, and that’s our effort and our energy and our attitude. And I think the fact that they know that they’ve got the depth behind them, but they know they can they can sell out a little bit and go harder, and it forces us to you know, or it allows us then to for some pressure defense to get some traps and that’s what we want to do. We want to trap and we’re gonna trap silence, we want to pressure the ball, we’re gonna sprint up and get back tips.”
Going into the third quarter Anderson and Turner were nearing their double-doubles. Early in the third quarter, Turned grabbed her ninth rebound on an offensive rebound and made one of two free-throws to give her nine points and the Braves a 29-15 lead.
The Crimson cut the Braves’ lead to single digits to end the fourth quarter down 32-23. Maddie Kendall invited the offense for the Braves when dished an assist to Turner who made the layup to give her 11 points. Turner grabbed her 10th rebounds a few minutes later to give her her first double-double as a Brave with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Anderson completed her double-double when she made one steal and then made another, going the length of the floor and finishing the play so too a driving layup to extend her point total to 19 points and the Braves lead to 39-25. The Braves held on to win 45-20.
Against Eisenhower, the Braves won 70-39.
The Braves started their season 2-0 overall. The Braves will face Taylorville on Friday at 8 p.m. and Hillsboro at 5 p.m. on Saturday in the Taylorville Tournament.
“I’ve told the girls that I honestly think we can compete with every team in the tournament this year. I really, truly believe that,” Coach Marvel said. “But we have to clean up some things. We got the win today and there were some good things, but we weren’t as good as we were against Eisenhower on Tuesday and that’s what we need to get back to what we’re doing there. But we’re early. It’s the second game of the season. And being in my second season, we’re already headed where we were last year. So there’s a lot of positives with that. I think the girls have bought in, they are understanding things and I think tomorrow is just us competing. We have to box out. We have to talk, physically, we have to swing the ball better. We held the ball and got stuck too often tonight. And then we have to get ready for Taylorville which is a conference game. That’s a big game. They are a very, very good team, one of the top teams in this tournament, and one of the top teams in the area, so we just have to be ready to be able to beat them.”