SPEARFISH | While the large crowd at the Spearfish High School gym on Tuesday night might not have been quite shoe-horn capacity, it was darn close as undefeated and top-ranked St. Thomas More came to town to meet up with the fifth-ranked Spearfish Lady Spartans.
The home crowd’s anticipation was richly rewarded as Spearfish rode a suffocating defense and aggressive play on the glass to upset the Cavaliers 44-33 in Black Hills Conference girls’ basketball.
Evenly played in the opening moments, with tough man-to-man defense providing few good looks at either end of the court, Spartan leading scorer Bethany Crosswait banked home a 3-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds on the first quarter clock to vault the Spartans into a 12-9 lead that they would not relinquish.
The Cavaliers did climb back within one at 15-14 at the 4:54 mark of the second quarter when Ciara Duffy converted an old-fashion three-point play, and when Crosswait went to the bench with her third personal midway through the period, the Spartan offense might have gone stagnant.
Junior Kaitlyn Hinch didn't let it happen, though, as she spearheaded a Spartan charge to a 21-14 lead en route to a 24-18 lead into intermission.
“We wanted to be aggressive tonight, and I tried to do that,” Hinch said. “And fortunately when some chances came my way I was able to convert. We did a good job of moving the ball and finding openings, and with Bethany out I tried to pick it up.”
Senior Miranda Meeker drew the assignment of trying to contain Cavalier Alexys Swedlund and was a huge key in limiting the Cavalier sophomore to four points through three quarters.
“My main focus tonight was to try to stop Swedlund, but I thought our team defense definitely won it for us and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates,” Meeker said. “We have been working on our rebounding since we didn’t rebound well against them the first time (a 62-60 Cavalier win) so we wanted to go strong to the basket and finish tonight.”
Swedlund warmed up in the final quarter, adding six of her team-leading 10 points in the frame, but the Cavaliers were unable to draw any closer than seven down the stretch as Hinch found openings inside while free throws down the stretch by Taylor Engesser and Kaitlin Spargur sealed the deal.
“We didn’t shoot well and Bethany was in foul trouble, which hurt our offensive continuity, but the kids stepped up,” Spartan coach Eric Lappe said. “Kaitlyn stepped up and took control offensively, and Miranda took control defensively and got it done and made plays when we had to have them.”
Cavalier coach Brandon Kandolin was left to wonder what might have happened had the Cavaliers converted some opportunities in the paint, and some free throws — the usually reliable Cavaliers were 9-for-20 in the game.
“Their defense was pretty solid tonight, and if you can’t capitalize on easy looks inside, and make free throws in a game like this, little things turn into big things right in a hurry,” Kandolin said.
Hinch was the only Spartan in double figures with 19 points, while Spargur pulled down eight rebounds. Ciara Duffy added nine points and Moira Duffy eight to go along with her 10 boards.
St. Thomas More (11-1, 5-1 BHC) is home this weekend hosting Bennett County on Friday and Winner on Saturday while Spearfish (9-2, 6-1) is off until next Tuesday night when the Lady Spartans travel to Lead-Deadwood.