Augusta's basketball team built a 12-4 lead to start Friday night's game against Wellington by playing what coach Tracy Anderson said was some of its best half-court defense of the season.
The Crusaders adjusted by speeding up the pace of the game and closing both halves strongly, and it worked. Wellington ended the second quarter on a 10-0 run and the fourth quarter on an 11-3 through the last 4:01 to beat the Orioles 40-36.
The Orioles ran efficient offense with great off-ball screens to set up shooters and great hustle underneath for second-chance opportunities in the first quarter. Bailey Reichardt scored on a putback. Carly Sears scored a layup on a beautiful pass from Morgan Kirk between two defenders.
The Crusaders locked up on defense late in the first half. They had five steals that led to several fast-break points.
"We went I think five trips there where we didn't get a bucket, and they just killed us in transition," Anderson said. "Even if they didn't get a layup, we were miss-rotating and sent them to the free throw line."
The Orioles led 20-18 at halftime. In the third quarter, Maddy Leedom scored a layup off her own steal as both defenses heated up. Only 11 total points were scored in the third.
Casady Marlnee scored a basket to put the Orioles ahead 29-24, and she later made a nice dish to Sears after making a spin move in the paint to get by a defender. The play put Augusta ahead 33-29 halfway through the fourth.
Wellington's defense, though, suffocated the Orioles the rest of the game. The Crusaders finished with eight steals and forced 10 total turnovers in the quarter with pressure defense.
"We had two turnovers where we secured the defensive rebound and threw it to the middle of the floor," Anderson said. "They did a good job of swarming the rebounder.
"It was a very physical game, and we couldn't get a break out of that," Anderson added.
Reichardt and Marlnee both scored 10 points to lead the Orioles. Sears scored six points, Kylie Wesbrooks added four, Leedom finished with three, and Bre Burkett, Abby Tipton and Morgan Kirk all added one.
Augusta will travel to play Clearwater Tuesday, Jan. 14.