Lady Eagles fly past Devils in tourney play

By Julia Green
It was a very different result – and, in fact, a very different game – from the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season. Tuesday’s first-round sectional game, which paired the ninth-seeded Margaretville Blue Devil girls against the host Downsville Eagles, resulted in a 53-34 win for the Eagles. It was the first trip to the postseason for the Blue Devils since 2003.

“I think the girls were really excited,” said Margaretville Head Coach Kyle Holden. “When they entered the season this year, they were determined to get back to sectional play, so they were very pleased to take care of that. “I think we were extremely nervous that day building up to it,” he added. By the time I met up with them, they were really excited and awfully nervous. They were feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders, I think.”

Margaretville drew first blood with a bucket by senior Brandi Balcom and had a 5-4 lead two minutes into the game, but it would be the last lead they would have for the rest of the game. Downsville went on a 14-3 scoring run to finish out the first quarter and take a 14-5 lead by the end of the period.

The Blue Devils struck first again in the second quarter, but a 7-0 scoring run by the host Eagles widened the gap even further. An 8-0 scoring run at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth widened Downsville’s lead to 20.

Rebounding troubles
“During those runs, especially in the first half, it was our rebounding that totally let us down,” Holden said. “We gave them way too many second, third and fourth opportunities to score, and you can’t do that. Our weak-side rebounding was nonexistent. They’d pull the ball off the weak side of the rim and put it back; that wore down our defense something fierce.”
Turnovers also plagued the Blue Devils, a number of which appeared to be the direct result of high pressure at the half-court line.

“That was something we didn’t handle well,” Holden said. “We tried to force the issue, passing up through hands instead of taking what the defense was giving us. We were trying to force the issue, and we’re just not going to be successful if we try to do that.”
In terms of game preparation, Holden said they opted to stick to an old adage: if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

“We knew Downsville was going to play their zone,” he said. “That’s their key defense is their 2-3 zone, so we worked on a lot of zone offense, and we knew we needed to play solid defense and rebound; that was pretty much what we focused on. We weren’t going to change too much of what was successful during the season. Unfortunately, once the game started, it was one of the worst passing games we’ve had this season.”

The Blue Devils turned the ball over 11 times on passes; more than half of their game-total 17 turnovers. And, in the last second of the game, it was a play that mirrored the theme of the night for the Blue Devils: a pass to no one that ended up in the hands of a Downsville opponent as the buzzer sounded.

“Downsville was determined,” Holden said. “I think we put effort out there, but for some reason we just couldn’t match their intensity.” He added that two strengths they rely on regularly – rebounding and defense – proved more challenging than usual for his squad. Margaretville tallied 24 total rebounds, 13 of those offensive, as compared to the teams’ prior meeting, in which the Blue Devils tallied 36 rebounds.

“Rebounding was going to make or break us,” he said. “If we could control the boards, I thought we would have a good job of controlling the game. It just didn’t come together for us.” Erica Faulkner led the Blue Devils with 15 points, while Casey Hubbell added six and Balcom had five. Hubbell led Margaretville in rebounds with seven and assists with three.

Looking back on the season as a whole, Holden said he was pleased with the way things came together and added that he’s optimistic about next year. “I was proud from top to bottom,” he said. “Even the girls we brought up for a little experience had success. It was a good season, there was a good feel around school and the team – it’s something we can build on for next year.”

The Blue Devils will lose four seniors to graduation: Brandi Balcom, Casey Hubbell, Caitlyn Roberts and Angela Zuniga.