Washington wins conference opener
Washington won two games over the weekend on Friday and Saturday to extend its winning streak to three games.
An 11-3 run at the close of the first half stretched a 2-point lead to 10 en route to a Washington 54-43 win over Fairfield.
The closest Fairfield got the rest of the way was within 7 points.
Both had a lot of depth and both instilled a full-court press, but it was Washington that wore down the Trojans.
“Their depth outplayed our depth,” said Fairfield head coach Mick Flattery.
Washington senior Grace Redlinger had 7 first-half points before finishing with a game-high 13 points. She had nine rebounds, four assists and five steals.
Washington made 22-32 free throws at a 68 percent clip, its best mark of the season.
“It’s like we shoot them in practice for a change,” Long said. “We make a lot of them in practice in our free-throw shooting drills. When kids see other kids step up and make them, it is contagious. We haven’t had a team average 68 percent in three or four years.”
The Trojans shot just 55 percent from the charity stripe.
“Anytime you lose is tough,” Flattery said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well and missed a lot of free throws.”
Flattery pointed out that his team only had seven deflections and five steals, which were proof his team wasn’t active defensively.
“What did (the loss) end up being — 10 or 11?” Flattery asked. “It felt like 40.”
Fairfield senior Hanna Greiner led her team with 12 points and nine boards.
Sophomore McKenna Ledger was second on the team with six rebounds.
Fairfield junior Mackenzie McClure had 8 points, as the second leading scorer.
Washington senior guard Dema Giardino was the only other player in double figures with 12 points.
Washington guard Stephanie Fishback led her squad with 11 rebounds and seven steals.
Junior Sydney Hoffman had seven rebounds. The Demons had nine players on the score sheet.
“Our team speed was the difference,” Long said. “Our quickness off the ball. In the fourth quarter he removed his starters because he was disappointed in the way they were moving their feet.”
At the 3:30 mark he took his starting five out.
“Defensively — and all the defenses we hadn’t shown in the half court and full court — once we get you leg weary, your guards will start giving it up.”
The Trojans starting point guard was Sami Fritz.
“When you rely on a freshman to run your whole show, that is a big step,” Long said. “She is a wonderful athlete and has a tremendous future. But she is still a freshman. We pretty much neutralized her.”
Washington had a season-low 14 turnovers.
In Washington’s most complete effort of the season defensively, the Trojans had just 20 points at the 4:10 mark of the third quarter.
“I think it was (the best defensive effort),” Redlinger said. “We played defense correctly, exactly how he wanted us to. We all stepped it up.”
Fairfield was fresh off a 49-46 overtime loss in the conference opener last Friday.
Both coaches agreed the conference is very balanced and that road wins will be hard to come by.
“In conference you got to win all of them at home and half of them on the road,” Long said. “Any one of the five teams have a chance to win this. Usually there are one or two dogs, but this year all teams are proven.”
The Panthers may have been a slight favorite in the preseason, but results have shown that is going to be a small gap.
“On paper Mt. Pleasant has a lot of seniors,” Flattery said. “They have a lot of players coming back. It is anybody’s game. If you can steal a game on the road, that would be very helpful.”
In nonconference action it topped West Branch 49-41, Saturday. Redlinger led her team in scoring again with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Fishback and Giardino had 11 points, apiece. Giardino led the team with five steals and three assists.