EDWARDSVILLE — Defense proved to be key in the Metro East Lutheran Knights' Prairie State Conference win over the East-Alton Wood River Oilers in Edwardsville Wednesday.
The Oilers committed 26 turnovers while the Knights only committed 13 in the 43-24 victory. EA-WR slipped to 1-24 overall and 0-5 in the PSC with the loss, while MELHS improved to 13-12 and 2-2 on the league slate.
“We did well defensively, we worked well as a unit today,” Metro East Lutheran coach Rob Stock said. “We communicated well whether we were playing man or zone. I thought they did a good job of working off each other to stop what Wood River was doing.”
EA-WR head coach Emily Van Natta talked about defense and shooting with her team.
“Their defense has been better than I expected it to be because I was told they had never played man-to-man,” she said. “I’ve been telling them that they’re going to play man-to-man. Good programs play man-to-man. Until we learn that, we’re going to stick to it. We played Litchfield who is a pretty good team, but they scored 37 points and we only scored 11. If you play good defense and keep a team under 40, you have a chance of winning, but you still have to score more than we do.”
Metro jumped out to a 5-2 lead behind a three from Abby Yurchuk and a field goal from Karly Schley. The game was tied once in the first quarter, 7-7, but Sami Kasting’s three at the 2:07 mark made the score 10-7 Lutheran. The Knights controlled the lead in the last few minutes of the quarter and led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter.
MELHS continued to build on its lead in the second quarter and led 27-16 at halftime. EA-WR crowded the inside on defense throughout the first half. The Knights passed the ball around the perimeter and capitalized from beyond the arc. Metro sank five treys in the first half, as Kasting had one three and Yurchuk sank four.
Van Natta said the threes were too uncontested. She put freshman Caitlin LeMond in to guard Yurchuk in the second half and Yurchuk only scored two points in the final two quarters.
“I put a little freshman on her after she made those threes,” Van Natta said. “She only had two points, I was really happy with that. I asked her to take her and she said ‘I got her.’ She’s going to be a heck of a defensive player for me.”
Van Natta also said that losing players on the perimeter has been an issue for her team this season.
“Normally teams don’t do this from the outside, a lot of it is from the middle,” she said. “We’ve been focusing on clogging up the middle and making it hard for the post and for people to cut in, but when they shoot from the outside and you have a sagging defense, that’s where it’s vulnerable.”
The third quarter proved to be a low scoring affair. EA-WR’s Sydney Slayden’s basket at the 6:08 mark was the first scoring of the quarter and MELHS held a 27-18 lead after the field goal.
Metro didn’t score until the 3:18 mark when Audrey Paitz nailed a three. The Oilers outscored the Knights 6-3 in the third quarter.
The Metro offense regained its potency in the fourth quarter. Paitz’ basket at the 7:17 mark kicked off a 6-2 run and MELHS led 36-24 at the 3:56 mark. The Knights outscored EA-WR 13-2 in the fourth quarter.
Yurchuk led the Metro offense with 14 points, while Paitz chipped in with 12.
“It was our senior night, it was a bittersweet moment for us seniors,” Yurchuck said. “We wanted to come out with a win. I was pushing the team and we were pushing each other. I kept going and going. There was no stopping until Stock took me out for a while.”
Carly Campbell led the Oilers’ offense with 12 points in the loss. EA-WR is back in action at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Brussels for a nonconference affair.