Earlier this season, when the South Putnam girls' basketball team lost a game after a poor shooting night, Eagle coach Debbie Steffy told her team that the shots weren't always going to fall. She said they'd have to find another way to win some games in spite of this.
On Wednesday night, the Eagles did exactly this, playing tough defense and taking care of the basketball to defeat Riverton Parke 34-25 in spite of shooting just 22 percent from the field.
Having totaled only 19 points through three quarters, the Eagles (8-6, 1-1 WCC) were rewarded for their poise and patience with 15 fourth-quarter points, taking a three-point lead to the final margin of nine.
"I thought our kids played pretty well tonight. It wasn't a situation where they got panicked that the ball wasn't going in the basket," Steffy commented. "They kept plugging away, they kept taking shots and they kept playing hard on the defensive end. I think they saw that, it was like, 'Hey, we're not scoring but they're not either, so it's a wash.'"
Although the offense was a struggle, the Eagles remained in control of the game through most of the night. After the Eagles trailed 2-0 early on, Leeah Butts hit a bucket to tie the game at two, and South never trailed again.
After the first, South led Riverton Parke (2-12, 0-4 WRC) by a count of 7-3.
In the second quarter, senior Meghan Canary bore the load for the Eagles, scoring six of their eight points. The Panthers managed six points in the frame, and the Eagles held a 15-11 halftime edge.
The third quarter was when the shooting became a real struggle for each squad. The Panthers outscored the Eagles 5-4 in the frame, with South getting only one field goal.
Still, they clung to a 19-16 lead entering the fourth.
In the fourth, South was finally able to get some space. Not only did they knock down some field goals, but they also knocked down their foul shots and forced turnovers.
Of Riverton Parke's 15 turnovers on the night, six of them came in the fourth quarter. South, by contrast, committed just seven and only two in the second half.
"We took care of the ball well -- especially there at the end when they came out and were really pressuring. That was with about four minutes to go in the game. We could have turned the ball over a bunch in that span and we didn't," Steffy said.
"Our kids held their composure, took care of the basketball and took care of business," she added.
After taking no shots in the third quarter, Canary returned to life for the Eagles in the fourth. Although she was 0-for-3 from the field in the fourth, she kept going to the basket and getting fouled.
Canary collected seven of her game-high 14 points in the fourth quarter, going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Down the stretch, the Eagles simply looked like the more composed team. They should have since their regular five is composed of three senior and two juniors.
The Panthers, by contrast, fielded three sophomores in the starting lineup.
"We've been out there and we've been through that before. I'm sure that being able to handle the basketball against a younger team is an advantage for us," Steffy said.
Still, the coach took nothing away from the Panthers. Her team's rough shooting night was also a credit to the opposing defense.
"To Riverton Parke's credit, they played well defensively," Steffy said. "They were right out there on us, they were in passing lanes making it tough."
The Eagles host Greencastle at 6 p.m. Friday.
At South Putnam
Riverton Parke 3 8 5 9 -- 25
South Putnam 7 8 4 15 -- 34
Riverton Parke (2-12, 0-4 WRC) -- Riggen 2-11 5-6 10, Wheeler 4-12 0-0 8, Gossett 2-7 1-2 5, Edington 1-1 0-0 2, Mathas 0-5, 0-2 0. Totals: 9-36 FG, 6-10 FT, 25 points.
South Putnam (8-6, 1-1 WCC) -- Canary 3-10 7-10 13, Birt 4-16 0-0 8, Butts 2-3 2-6 6, Boetjer 1-10 2-5 4, Mink 0-5 3-6 3. Totals: 10-45 FG, 14-27 FT, 34 points.
3-pt FG -- RP 1-8 (Riggen 1-6), SP 0-6. Rebounds -- RP 19, SP 25 (Butts 10, Birt 6). Steals -- RP 4, SP 10 (Butts 3). Assists -- RP 5, SP 4 (Canary 2, Birt 2). Turnovers -- RP 15, SP 7.
Junior varsity result -- South Putnam 42, Riverton Parke 28.
Next game -- South Putnam hosts Greencastle at 6 p.m. Friday.