The Denton Lady Broncos have gone through the first half of the season with defense as their mainstay and offense often falling by the wayside.
On Saturday against Denison, Denton flourished with a different offensive scheme, winning 39-18 with Mariah Seastrunk leading all scorers with 13 points.
While Seastrunk led the way with her offense, it was her lock-down defense on Denison star Jasmine Ballard that provided Denton’s defensive spark.
“I thought we did a decent job defensively,” Denton coach Dennis Krishka said. “Not great, but decent coming off of the holidays. I thought Mariah Seastrunk really did a good job on their best player. I think she [Ballard] had four points. She was the key for them. She has been a three-year starter for them.”
Krishka said he was concerned with how his team would open the game coming off its Christmas break and thought Denton’s first-half defense could have given up several easy buckets.
“Coming off the holiday break trying to get the rust off and get into the flow of things again,” Krishka said. “It took a little while, but I thought once we got going it was good. It was still too many missed opportunities. We had 11 steals in the first half and only converted them into two buckets. Those are the kinds of things that we keep talking about that we need to do to be successful.”
After Denton took a 16-7 lead into the second half with leading scorer April Pena and LaNeisha Hudspeth each only scoring four points, an aggressive Seastrunk scored six points in the third quarter to keep Denton ahead as it was outscored 9-8 in the period.
“She has always taken the ball to the basket well,” Krishka said of Seastrunk. “Our focus with her was to take good shots, and she took advantage of that today.
The one thing that we have been harping on is to take the ball to the basket. She did a fantastic job on both ends of the floor for us. We’ve been waiting for her to break out for us, so it was good to see.”
It was Seastrunk’s first start for the Lady Broncos, and Krishka said her hard work over the break helped give her the opportunity.
“Not everybody was at practice every day, so the people that were here get the opportunity,” Krishka said. “Mariah has worked hard through that opportunity.
“I always thought that she should be in the starting lineup for us. She struggled through some illnesses and things early on the season and she hasn’t been quite herself, but I’m hoping this will be a breakout game for her. She certainly earned a start next Friday at Wichita Falls.”
The Lady Broncos (5-15) finished the game in spectacular offensive fashion, outscoring the Lady Yellowjackets 15-2 in the fourth quarter.
Seastrunk scored five points in the fourth, going 3 for 3 from the free-throw line thanks to her strong drives to the basket, to go with six points from Myesha Taylor and four more from Pena.
After shaky decision-making on transition opportunities in the first half, Denton settled down in the second half and a change in offensive philosophy led to more aggression.
“We ran a little different set instead of running our continuity stuff,” Krishka said. “We ran some basic set plays where we had some people coming off ball screens and attacking the rim a little more with people spotting up off that ball screen. I liked the way that looked today.”
Krishka said the success Denton had with the more aggressive style may affect his game plans in the future.
“Even though we haven’t spent a lot of time working on it, I thought today was a good opportunity to do that,” Krishka said. “In the second half, we went strictly with that to get us more dribble penetration. I think that is something that we will look to do more of, especially against teams that play us [man-to-man] like that where we can attack the rim a little bit more.”
Against Lake Dallas two games ago, Denton was in position to earn its first district victory. But the Lady Broncos were outscored 8-2 in the fourth quarter and 7-4 in overtime, and Krishka said Saturday’s offensive efficiency would help in tight games.
“We haven’t been scoring and have been in the 20s in district each game,” Krishka said. “Against Lake Dallas we ran four minutes off the clock with one possession. We weren’t trying to stall; we were trying to score. We were passive and didn’t look for opportunities to score.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Denton 39, Denison 18
Denison 4 3 9 2 — 18
Denton 10 6 8 15 — 39
Denison — Jacoya Johnson 5, Jasmine Ballard 4, Taylor Cummins 3 Dee Harris 2, Micayla Hunt 2, Jordan Nation 2.
Denton — Mariah Seastrunk 13, Myesha Taylor 8, April Pena 8, LaNeisha Hudspeth 4, Victoria Amadi 2, Jordan Hudspeth 2, Jordan Mazziotta 2.