By T. Scott Boatright
Cedar Creek stormed out to a big lead early on against West Ouachita at the Brickhouse.
Then the Lady Cougars had to weather the storm when the Lady Chiefs heated up in the third stanza.
But Cedar Creek settled down in the final stanza to hold on for a 55-38 win over West Ouachita to move to 2-1 on the young season.
The Lady Cougars dominated the first quarter, with Elli Dickerson driving to the basket and either drawing the foul or dishing off to Lizzie McAdams, who stopped and popped the nets nine points in the first eight minutes.
Dickerson also had a big first quarter, totaling five points after hitting five-of-six free throw attempts as the Lady Cougars led 18-6 heading into the second stanza.
“In the first half, we made it really hard for them to make shots, and when they got a shot it was only one shot because we were rebounding really well,” said Cedar Creek coach Gene Vandenlangenberg. “And we were giving ourselves second and third chances off of offensive boards.”
The Lady Cougars maintained that intensity in the second quarter, taking a 19-point advantage into the locker room at halftime with a 32-11 advantage capped off with a short jumper by Dickerson off a pass from Olivia Underwood with three seconds left before intermission.
But then the wind kind of left the Lady Cougars’ sails in the third quarter, as the Lady Chiefs outscored Cedar Creek 13-9 in the stanza to trim their deficit to 41-25 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
“It happens,” Vandenlangenberg said. “It’s hard to keep that intensity going a whole game. That drop in intensity caused some gaps in our defense as we started playing with our arms down because of that lack of intensity.
“But in the fourth quarter I thought we picked it back up. We lost our composure for a brief bit because we had some things that didn’t go our way. But to turn it back around at the end there in only our third game of the season, I thought the girls played a really good game. We’re still trying to find ourselves.”
Vandenlangenberg said it was a matter of countering halftime adjustments made by the Lady Chiefs.
“In the third quarter they extended their defense and started reading what we were trying to do — they were reading and anticipating our passes,” Vandenlangenberg said. “They clamped down on our inside game and we couldn’t get through them. So it got a little hairy at times, but we figured it out and extended our offense and made work a little more and made them tired.”
Vandenlengberg said he was especially proud of the way his girls weathered that third quarter in light of being shorthanded.
“We’re preaching consistency,” Vandenlangenberg said. “And we played three good quarters. We’re still working on conditioning. We were without a couple of subs we could have rotated in and got a little tired. We didn’t have to go as deep as we thought we might have to. We probably had four girls play 32 minutes.”
He was also proud of the way the Lady Cougars dominated the glass.
“West Ouachita is an excellent rebounding team,” Vandenlangenberg said. “We scrimmaged them twice and they worked us over on the board pretty good. But tonight I thought we flipped that and controlled the boards in the first half, got the lead and then we held on.”
Underwood led the Lady Cougars with 14 points while Allie Furr added 12. McAdams chipped in with 10 and Dickerson and Lillian Soto hitting for nine each.
“Our biggest concern coming into the season was finding points — scoring points,” Vandenlangenberg said. “But for these first few games we’ve been able to find points, so I’m not complaining. I can’t remember the last time we had balanced scoring like that.
“We had three girls score in and two more sniffing double figures,” Vandenlangenberg said. “That’s pretty balanced. And we got good inside points from Elli and Allie, and that’s a great sign. If they start scoring, that will be big for us.”
But most of all, he said he was pleased with the way his team responded in the fourth quarter after struggling some in the third.
“That’s the kind of thing we kind of hang our hat on,” Vandenlandenberg said. “We kind of bent but didn’t and were able to get back on the upside. And it got hairy for a little bit there.
“We’re getting there. We’re going to be a hard-working team and see what happens. But I’m proud of this win and proud of the way our girls played.”
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