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Indians earn convincing win over Knights

POST: Southwood’s Erin Lehner (14, center) and Sierra Stout (right) defend Mississinewa’s Caily Bolser (42, left) in the post during Wednesday’s game.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

GAS CITY -- There was no smile on Omega Tandy’s face and a sound of concern in her voice. Her Mississinewa girls basketball team had just put the finishing touches on a 69-31 win over Southwood, but with a Central Indiana Conference battle with Class 2A No. 1 Oak Hill looming on Saturday, Tandy was compelled to look at how much better her team will have to play very soon.

“I’m disappointed. It doesn’t feel much like a win to me because of the way we played,” Tandy stated. “When you have the opportunity to put a team away, you’ve got to put them away. I feel like our girls didn’t execute very well in the beginning.”

The Indians settled for a lot of jump shots in the first half, instead of working the ball against the Knights’ 2-3 zone and trying to get the ball inside to 6-4 Caily Bolser. Ole Miss hit just 5-of-16 from the floor and Bolser attempted just one shot and scored a single point. Still Ole Miss held an 12-3 advantage after one.

The second quarter proved to be different, as Ole Miss found Bolser three times in the paint and she converted all three opportunities into three-point plays. The third put the Indians on to 29-12 with just over two minutes to play.

Southwood then ran off six-straight and missed a chance at drawing closer on a one-and-one free throw chance before Alayna Webb swished home a three to put Ole Miss up 32-19 at halftime.

Knights’ coach Chad West told his team at halftime it just need to chip away at the Indians’ lead and hang around.

“The first half we definitely hung around with them for not playing our best, then in third quarter they blitzed us,” West said. “The first half we forced some turnovers and got some deflections we just couldn’t pay it off enough.”

Mississinewa’s trapping press expedited the process of the Indians taking control right away in the third quarter. Ole Miss forced four-straight turnovers, Tyler Bartel and Riley McKee both hit 3-pointers and in less than two minutes the lead was extended to 43-18.

Sydney Helfin hit one of two free throws for Southwood with 5:19 to play in the third for the Knights’ first point, but Bartel had two more baskets and Ole Miss led 49-19. Southwood’s first field goal came with just over three minutes to play in the third and the Knights closed the quarter with a 9-2 run, but the damage was already done and the Indians led 53-28 entering the fourth.

“At halftime we talked about this being their experience and them having to be leaders and not depend on me so much for their energy,” Tandy said. “I think they responded very well to that conversation. We still had 16 turnovers, we didn’t rebound the ball very well and they shot a lot of free throws. Part of our game plan was to not let that happen.”

The Knights got to the free throw line 14 times in the first half, but hit just four. Southwood made 7-of-20 for the game while Mississinewa was good 9-of-14 times. Ole Miss doubled-up Southwood on the boards, 44-22, and had 15 offensive rebounds.

“It was a blitz,” West said of the start of the second half. “We started poorly and it was mainly offensive rebounding and I called a timeout and lit them up. They’ve got height with the Bolser girl they were going to get some...We weathered and we even said at halftime, we didn’t do a bunch great, but we made runs at them, hit some shots and got to the free throw line fantastically. We just didn’t hit any of them.”

Webb, making her first start of the season, led all scorers with 16 points for Ole Miss and added five rebounds and five steals. Bolser ended with 13 points, 11 in the second quarter, and also had 10 rebounds. Bartel finished with 11 points, nine coming in the third quarter.

“Offensively, we felt more individualized that we’ve ever been. We shot a lot of shots, I credit that to them playing a 2-3 zone. We haven’t had a team play us 2-3 all season so they did feel more open, but we didn’t move the ball like we normally do and get the ball into spots for high percentage shots.”

Ole Miss made 28-of-59 (47 percent) and 4-of-17 from long range. Southwood hit 11-of-38 field goal attempts, 2-of-6 from 3-point range.

“I was pleased with how we played defensively in spurts. I think we were trying to execute certain things defensively that we did not do well,” Tandy said. “It wasn’t a great game for us. When you are bigger than other teams and you’re more skilled and you get a win, it doesn’t mean that you played well and I don’t think we played well.”

MaKenna Pace led the Knights with 12, Kayla Mays added second and both Sierra Stout and Morgan Farr chipped in with four. Farr gave Southwood a spark defensively in the first half with five steals.

Up next for Ole Miss (7-4) is its date with an Oak Hill team that is playing up to its top-billing in Class 2A and Tandy knows her team can’t afford a sluggish start on Saturday.

“That’s a good team. It’s a well-oiled machine,” Tandy said of Oak Hill. “Coach Law has always been that coach, his teams always play at the level that they play at.

“We know Oak Hill, we know exactly what they’re going to do and they know us too,” she added. “It’s going to be a matter of who, mentally, can bring their A game...We cannot start the way we started today and win that game so we have to really focus on getting a great start and executing our game plan.”

Southwood (3-4) also faces a stern test at Class A No. 6 Northfield (6-2) on Friday.