EMINENCE - In the amber waves of grain of the west central Indiana terrain, the back door of the Eminence High School gymnasium was wide open Thursday night.
For the first 16 minutes of girls' varsity basketball game, Eminence made baseline cuts behind the South Putnam defense, converting easy buckets down low and taking a commanding 45-20 lead into halftime. The Eels never looked back, defeating the Eagles, 55-36 on their home court.
"They're a good team," South Putnam Coach Debbie Steffy said. "They're a matchup problem for us. They're a matchup problem for a lot of people."
Senior Jacci Martin paced the game for Eminence, scoring 17 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out nine assists. In the first quarter alone, Martin had 13 points and four assists, leading the Eels to a 22-8 first quarter lead.
By the end of the first half the Eminence offense was flowing, on pace to score 90 points. The Eagles were struggling to find the basket, with Jessica Canary putting the offense on her back, scoring 14 of South Putnam's 20 first half points.
"The first 16 minutes of the ball game we played with absolutely no pride and no heart," Steffy said. "We got beat off the backcut, we got beat off the dribble. It was like it was no big thing."
However, the second half was a bit of a different story.
"At halftime we had a little bit of a sit down," Steffy said. "We decided that if we're going to play, we're going to play with pride."
The talk showed.
South Putnam outscored Eminence 16-10 in the second half. The seemingly unstoppable Eminence offense committed 16 second half turnovers. Even with the game all but over in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, players were still exhausting efforts, diving for loose balls and running the floor.
"I thought in the second half we came out and did a much better job," Steffy said. "Defensively, we picked up the intensity. We took pride in what we were doing out there. If somebody made a backcut, we were going to try to defend it. We were going to slide over and help."
Although the second half effort came up short, and Eminence walked away with the victory, Steffy thought some positives came out of the game. With a lot of younger players seeing action in the ball game, some priceless experience was gained.
"I think it's a good learning experience," she said. "We have a lot of younger kids who don't have a lot of varsity experience. You know, I'm talking 13 games into the season some people who haven't played a lot of minutes and all. These are kids that we're going to count on for the future of our program. It was a good game for them."
Canary led the Eagles with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Meghan Canary had eight points and four assists. Booe had a team-high six rebounds and three steals, adding to the Eagles' effort.
Eminence shot 25-of 43 in the game, with Jessica Malott going 6-of-8 from the field, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds. Both Michelle Kreamer and Aulani Sinclair added eight points each, shooting a combined 8-of 10 from the field.
South Putnam falls to 9-4 on the season, while Eminence improves to 12-2.
Despite not being happy with her team's performance, Steffy acknowledged the quality of the Eminence team after the game.
"They're going to probably be able to make a run," she said. "They've got post players that can run the floor. They've got somebody that can handle it. They've got outside shooting. They're a good team."
The Eagles host Riverton Parke Wednesday at 7 p.m. In the meantime, Steffy said the Eagles are going to go back to the basics.
"We're just going to go back to making sure we do the little things correctly," she said. "We talked about stopping the ball, putting pressure on the ball, things like that. Those little things we're just going to have to reinforce.
"Riverton Parke is one of those teams that is a small school, but they play with pride. So we're going to have to be ready to play in that game," Steffy added.
South Putnam 8 12 8 8 - 36
Eminence 22 23 8 2 - 55
South Putnam - Robinson 1 0-0 2, M. Canary 4 0-0 8, J. Canary 5 3-4 14, Stanifer 1 0-0 2, Birth 1 0-0 2, Boetjer 0 0-0 0, Booe 2 0-0 4, Mink 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 FG, 3-4 FT, 36 TP.
Eminence - Persson 1 0-0 2, Kreamer 4 0-0 8, Malott 6 5-7 17, Sinclair 4 0-0 8, Harrison 1 0-0 2, Burns 0 0-0 0, Burns 1 0-0 2, Martin 7 0-0 17. Totals 24 FG, 5-7 FT, 55 TP.
3 pt. - South Putnam 1 (J. Canary 1), Eminence 3 (Martin 3), Rebounds - South Putnam 20 (Booe 6), Eminence 22 (Martin 7), Assists - South Putnam 8 (M. Canary 4, J. Canary 4), Eminence 17 (Martin 9), Steals - South Putnam 9 (J. Canary 3, Booe 3), Eminence 7 (Martin 3), Blocks - South Putnam 2 (J. Canary 2), Eminence 6 (Malott 3, Martin 3), Turnovers - South Putnam 20, Eminence 22, Fouls - South Putnam 8, Eminence 7.
JV - South Putnam defeated Eminence 24-8.
Next game - South Putnam hosts Riverton Parke Wednesday at 7 p.m.