As South Elgin girls basketball coach Tim Prendergast said and Hampshire coach Ed Haugens seconded, defense and rebounding can take a team a long way.
The defensive side of it staked South Elgin to a season-opening 47-40 victory Wednesday at Hampshire in the Dundee-Crown tournament to open both teams’ seasons.
“I thought we were athletic and kept battling,” said Prendergast about his team’s half-court defense.
The Storm got tough at crunch time, holding Hampshire without a point for the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter while turning a 36-32 edge after three quarters into a 44-32 advantage. Until then, the Storm had almost matched Hampshire turnover-for-turnover in the second half.
“It was our first game and it was to be expected,” South Elgin’s Kennede Miller said about her team’s 14 second-half turnovers. “We missed a lot of layups.
“It took us a while to pick it up but we got there.”
Miller had one short shot that wasn’t missed and may have helped turn the game. Hampshire had pulled within 31-30 in the third quarter following two free throws by Jen Dumoulin, but with 1:20 left in the quarter Miller moved to the basket and hit the shot while also drawing a foul. She completed the three-point play. After that, Hampshire gradually fell back, starting with the 5-minute scoreless stretch to begin the fourth quarter.
“That seemed like it gave us some momentum and it got all of us going,” said Miller, who matched teammate Nell Wentling with a team-high 11 points and also had eight rebounds. Miller scored nine of her 11 points in the second half.
When the fourth quarter started with Hampshire down 36-32, South Elgin got a free throw each from Kara Rodriguez and Amanda Behles, then Behles scored on a fast break with six minutes left in the game following Hampshire’s fifth turnover of the quarter, and the Storm led 40-32.
Haugens called a timeout after that, but the Storm got two free throws from Delaney Kelleher and a Miller layup to pull out to a 44-32 lead before going into delay mode.
“I think we got a little tired then,” Dumoulin said about the early fourth quarter. “Coach told us we were really going to have to pick it up at that point.
“It was the first game it didn’t seem like we did a very good job with the ball at first and then in the second quarter we calmed down quite a bit.”
Dumoulin scored a game-high 17 points and hauled in five rebounds for Hampshire, which committed 18 second-half turnovers after fighting back to within 26-25 at halftime.
“We have to play Hononegah next and they’re really going to pressure us,” Haugens said. “We had too many turnovers and we’re going to have to cut that down quite a bit.”
Hampshire had seven points from Tricia Dumoulin and six from Emma Benoit.