MANTACHIE – Mental mistakes such as turnovers and fouls have plagued the bulk of the Mantachie Lady Mustangs’ 2012-13 season.
Last Tuesday, however, Coach Shayla Walker’s group put together what was, perhaps, their best performance to date when they used constant pressure to frustrate Aberdeen and cruise to their first Division 2-3A victory, 55-30.
“I don’t know (where this team has been all season), but I’m glad they are finally showing up for division play,” Walker said. “We are showing a lot more intensity now, something I have been begging for all year.”
The Lady Mustangs (4-16, 1-3) held a slim 1-point lead after the first, but dominated the second with a 14-3 run that stretched the entire period.
A bullying man-to-man defense created multiple turnovers and opportunities in transition, which Morgan Gray, 13 points, and Judi Beth McMillen, 6, took advantage of early in the second to give Mantachie some breathing room.
It was, however, three consecutive baskets around the rim by Lauren Collier, 15 points, that put the Mustangs in front by double digits and eventually led to a 22-10 halftime advantage.
“We tried (to bring pressure early) the other night, and it didn’t work,” Walker said. “But they saw that if they will start with pressure and do it for four quarters, that there will be a different outcome in the game, and that’s what happened.”
Led in the second half by Maggie Oswalt, who scored a game-high 16 points and notched an astounding 13 steals, Mantachie continued to frustrate and overwhelm the Lady Bulldogs, leaving little opportunity for a comeback.
Shots that have refused to fall for the Lady Mustangs this season were suddenly going in and, fouls, which have been a killer, were suddenly not a big issue.
The lead grew to 15, then 20 and finally 25 before Mantachie slowed down the pace and wound the clock down on what is, up until this point, their second largest margin of victory this season.
“I think they finally just came together and realized that this is the end, so they have got to play hard,” Walker said.
Though they are beginning to play their best ball during the time of the season when it means the most, Coach Walker knows that there is still plenty of work to be done.
“We still need to work on free throws and shooting, those are our biggest problems right now,” she said. “We still don’t have a leader. We have a couple who have stepped up, but we have no one who actually says, ‘the team is mine.’ That is hurting us right now, too.”
The Lady Mustangs will retake the court Friday at home against TCPS as they enter the final weeks of the regular season, which will culminate with the Division 2-3A Tournament on Feb. 11-15 at Water Valley.
Zach Adams can be reached at 862-3141 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.