Basketball is a game of opportunities and the South Putnam Eagles girls' basketball team seized those opportunities to defeat visiting South Vermillion 51-47 in a game accentuated by physical play inside and out.
"I thought we did a much better job of handling physical pressure -- people being up on us, reaching in a lot," South Putnam head coach Debbie Steffy said.
Things began to change at the 7:15 mark, when Oceaia Boetjer connected on a shot to pull the Eagles within three.
The biggest lift for the Eagles came from senior Liz Mink and junior Leeah Butts in the fourth quarter. Mink clogged the lane while Butts scored seven points in the final quarter to pace the Eagles.
"They (Mink and Butts) knew they had to step it up because Caitlin Phillips is a very good post player. They knew they were going to have to be physical with her and know that she was going to be physical with them, so they had to be ready for that," Steffy observed. "I was really pleased with the way they played.
"Liz (Mink) only had the one basket, but she did so many other things for us. She got offensive rebounds and she played some decent defense for us. Leeah (Butts) came in during the fourth quarter and scored some points for us and did the job on the post player. They did an outstanding job on her (Phillips) because she is a pretty good post player," Steffy said.
South Putnam started the game strong and built a lead steadily during the first quarter. Baskets from Canary, Birt and Butts extended the lead but a charge at the end of the quarter by the Lady Cats cut the Eagles' lead to two points at 15-13.
South continued to pressure South Vermillion limiting them to 4-11 shooting in the second quarter while connecting on six shots of their own. Boetjer scored 10 points in the quarter to lead the Eagles. As the second quarter came to its conclusion, the Eagles held a 27-19 advantage over the Lady Cats.
In the third quarter, South Vermillion's physical play began to turn the tide as they outscored the Eagles 14-6 in the period to tie the game 33-all going into the fourth. South Putnam was calm under pressure throughout the night, committing only 14 turnovers in the game. Steffy was excited about her squads' ability to handle the ball with care against such an aggressive South Vermillion defense.
The beginning of the fourth quarter was a struggle for the Eagles and the Lady Cats took advantage and built a five-point lead. Once Boetjer fired up the Eagles' squad, there was no stopping the South Putnam charge.
Steffy acknowledged that she felt her team needs to build its confidence to be able to move to the next level of play.
"When we substitute and when we put people in there, I know that some of the kids we put in don't have the level of confidence that I would like," Steffy said. "It's something we have to work on and get better at.
"We're not even halfway through the season, so I'm confident these girls will get it taken care of and I know they will. It's the type of people they are," Steffy concluded.
The Eagles (4-3) will travel to Cascade for a 6 p.m. start Friday.
At South Putnam
South Vermillion 11 8 14 14 -- 47
South Putnam 12 15 6 18 -- 51
South Vermillion -- Phillips 17, McLeish 12, Samuelson 8, Milam 8, Fugua 2.
South Putnam -- Canary 15, Boetjer 10, Butts 9, Birt 8, Mink 5, Haynes 4.
Next game -- The Eagles (4-3) will travel to Cascade for a 6 p.m. start Friday.