Defense and foul shooting are two key ingredients at any level of basketball. In the high school girls game, there might not be two more important strengths for a team to possess.
Northwestern showed off both of them Friday night at Pleasant Valley. The Lady Tigers used their defense to build a lead. They hit foul shots down the stretch to seal a 59-42 nonleague win over the Lady Bears.
"This year on defense we just want to pressure the ball," said Northwestern's Sara Jones, who scored a game-high 26 points. "I tell the girls we want to make [the other team] feel so uncomfortable with the ball that they want to turn it over. That's what we did [Saturday]."
Northwestern (2-0) forced 20 Pleasant Valley turnovers in the first half and built 15-point lead by early in the third quarter.
The Bears (1-1) stayed close enough to make a fourth-quarter run. When Arden Cisluycis hit her fifth three-pointer of the game, it cut the Tigers' lead to 43-37 with 4:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Pleasant Valley didn't score again for over three minutes as Northwestern went on a 10-0 run. Sarah Segan (17 points) hit six foul shots and one basket during the run. She said her team works on free throws at every practice.
"If you miss you're running, so we've got to make them," Segan said. "Free throws are so important."
Jones made six of six free throws in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. She was 10 for 11 at the line in the game. It's the kind of game her head coach is used to seeing from the fourth-year varsity starter.
"I didn't even realize she had 26 points," said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. "She lets the game come to her. She doesn't force the issue. She gets her teammates involved."
Northwestern used its pressure defense to gain a lead. Pleasant Valley turned the ball over 10 times in each of the first two quarters as the Tigers took an 11 point advantage into halftime.
"In the first quarter we turned the ball over quite a bit," said Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "We figured out their press over the next couple quarters. We just had a very slow start. Once we figured out thier press we were struggling to come back."
Northwestern built its lead up to 15 twice in the third quarter. The first time was on a Trista Cunningham basket early in the period. The last time came on a pair of Jones free throws that made it 38-23 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
A three-point play by Mackenzie Dorney started a 6-0 Pleasant Valley run and the teams went into the fourth quarter at 41-31.
Northwestern also won the JV game, 37-31 as Kylee Bennett led the JV Tigers with nine points.
Mertz 1-0-1-2, Landrigan 0-0-0-0,