It was a top priority heading into the season.

And for most of the year, that priority was met with success.

But in the opening quarter of Friday's Mountain Valley Conference contest against East Stroudsburg South, the Lehighton girls had a setback.

Early trouble against the Cavaliers' press forced numerous turnovers and led to an eventual 54-31 defeat on Senior Night.

"We couldn't handle the ball there," said Indian head coach Eric Gidney. "A lot of the things in previous seasons that were weaknesses were protecting the ball and handling pressure. We've done a good job of that this year, but tonight it got away from us.

"We did (handle the ball better in the second half). My No. 1 priority coming into the season was to fix how poorly they've handled fullcourt pressure in the past ... We've had situations this year where other teams have had to call off the press because we maximized our opportunities and converted those into baskets but not tonight."

Lehighton finished the first frame with 12 turnovers and fell behind by a 20-4 score.

Besides the defense South threw at the Tribe (6-12), East Stroudsburg also benefitted from its perimeter game.

Kaitlyn Poje (who had a game-high 18 points) hit a pair of three-pointers and Cy Lippold added one as the Cavaliers bolted to the huge advantage.

"Kate was shooting the ball real well," said ES mentor Adam Cole. "But (Lehighton) went to a little bit of junk defense at the end of the first half to take Kate and Cy out of it. We talked about playing uptemo but under control and early we were uptempo and under control. In the second half, though, we were uptempo and out of control."

In that second half, the Indians settled down and played even with their opponent. But by that time it was too little, too late.

"Not to take anything away from South, but we didn't come to play tonight," said Gidney, whose club had just eight turnovers in that second half. "That's been a little bit of a recurring theme and one that obviously I need to fix.

"We made some adjustments against their shooters and kind of took it away, but by that point it was just too late. We fell into a real, real deep hole and couldn't dig out of it."

While the result was decided early, the Indians did take some positives away from their final league contest with the Cavaliers (11-7).

Riley Durishan poured in all 12 of her points over the final two quarters while Tiff Thompson finished the contest with eight points and 10 rebounds.

"Their whole program, in general, is competitive and they're on the upswing," said Cole about Lehighton's team. "The girls are buying in and they seem to be enjoying basketball. Eric has done a phenominal job. If they can keep him here and establish a little bit of stability they're definitely in the right direction ... And he's got a lot to build with."

ES SOUTH

Maldanado 1-2-2-4, B. Poje 0-0-0-0, Lippold 4-0-0-9, Wilson 0-0-0-0, K. Poje 7-0-0-18, McKeller 3-0-0-6, McCarthy 2-0-0-4, Rodriguez 0-1-2-1, Ramirez 2-4-8-9, Cook 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 20-7-12-54.

LEHIGHTON

Rossino 1-2-2-4, Durishan 6-0-0-12, Scott 0-0-0-0, Whiteman 0-0-0-0, Fital 1-0-0-2, Blasiak 0-0-0-0, Smith 0-2-2-2, Thompson 4-0-1-8, Rehrig 1-0-0-2, Bollinger 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 13-5-7-31.

ES South 20 16 10 8 - 54

Lehighton 4 10 8 9 - 31

Three-pointers: ES South - K. Poje 4, Lippold 1, Ramirez 1, Cook 1; Lehighton - None.