Are the Demons finally finding their groove offensively?
It took the Washington girls’ basketball team seven games, but the 14th-ranked Demons may have finally found their shooting stroke in Tuesday’s 62-36 win at Durant.
Through Washington’s first six games, the Demons had been averaging a paltry 40.5 points per game. And the team’s shooting numbers were icy, to say the least. Washington shot just 28 percent from the field, including 18 percent from 3-point range, in its first six games, and made just 54 percent of its free throws.
The Demons were due for a breakout performance.
“We finally shot the ball like we’ve been shooting it in practice,” Washington head coach Phil Long said after Tuesday’s game. “I’ve always said that scoring is contagious. When the girls see other people scoring, they decide to score.”
The ability to score spread through Washington’s squad like wildfire on Tuesday night, as every member of the team scored. Senior Lauren Kimball poured in a career-high 21 points, a total that was eight points higher than any Demon had scored this season.
After losing its top three scorers from last season, the Demons have leaned on their defense while waiting for their offense to come around. Washington’s players play in-your-face full-court defense and use their quickness to get steals. The Demons have allowed just 36.4 points per game through its first seven games, a number that ranks seventh in Class 4A.
“We knew losing some players last year that could shoot, we knew that we’re going to have to get in the gym and we’re going to have to shoot, but we knew that coming into this season that our defense was key,” Washington senior Johannah Vittetoe said earlier this season. “After our first few games, you’d be surprised how many people come up to all of us and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, your defense — that’s what’s going to win the games.’ It’s cool to know that people recognize it. We know that we’re doing it when we’re playing it, but it’s cool to know that fans and parents and Phil and our coaches know that we’re really good at defense. It’s good to know that people realize that.”
Washington’s defensive performance this season has allowed the Demons to be competitive while playing a difficult early-season schedule. Washington’s seven opponents currently have a combined record of 26-21, and three of those squads — Mid-Prairie, Solon and Williamsburg — are currently rated.
The Demons held their first four opponents under 40 points, and have only allowed one team, Solon, to eclipse that mark (Solon defeated Washington 56-48 on Dec. 1).
“We shoot for anything under 40, which gives us a chance to win,” Long said earlier this season. “Until we find our offensive firepower, it’s crucial that we play good defense.”
But Washington may have begun to find that offensive groove. Now the Demons will need to continue to keep scoring — and playing their tough brand of defense — this weekend when they face Keokuk on the road and West Branch at home. Both teams are currently 4-2 on the season, and will pose major challenges for Washington.
They’ll need to play a complete game, like they did at Durant.