St. Thomas More used hounding defensive pressure to break open a game with Custer that was close early before the third-ranked Cavaliers ran away with a 49-15 win over the Wildcats in Black Hills Conference girls' basketball action Tuesday at the STM gymnasium.
Custer closed within 10-8 of the More with 6:31 remaining in the second quarter when Wildcat sophomore Josey Wahlstrom sank two free throws. The Cavaliers turned up the defensive heat and thoroughly frustrated Custer the rest of the way, outscoring the Wildcats 13-2 to close the half and 39-7 for the rest of the game.
“We were really focusing on pressuring the ball, focusing on our defense a lot,” More senior Delaney Klosterman said. “Defense causes turnovers, which gets us easy baskets and really running the floor.”
Cavalier coach Brandon Kandolin felt his team was out of sync on the offensive end over the first quarter and a half, but STM got a couple baskets off set plays in its half-court offense. At one point in the second quarter, More converted baskets on five straight possessions to get on track, allowing the Cavaliers to take control of the flow of the game.
“We’ve started off games where, offensively, we just weren’t on the same page,” said Kandolin, who celebrated his birthday with a Tuesday win. “We ran a few sets and we got wide open looks when we finally got organized.
“The key, though, is the defense. That’s going to keep us in games and give us chances until we can get some things figured out offensively.”
More held Custer without a field goal to start the game until an odd bounce off a missed shot hit Kellyn Kortemeyer’s outstretched hands, bounced up and went in for a basket with 21.7 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Wahlstrom hit a jumper to open scoring in the second quarter and followed with two free throws a minute later to make it 10-8 STM.
From there, it was all Cavaliers.
On the offensive end midway through the second stanza, Klosterman broke to the basket from the off-ball side of the floor and scored a layup. The next time down the floor Kaci Cooper went hard to the basket from the right elbow for another score. Then point guard Jenna Jacobson took a lob pass from Haleigh Timmer and made a short jump shot to make it a 19-8 ballgame.
Cooper scored another driving basket and then Timmer, who led all scorers with 22 points, got in the act, capping 13 unanswered points for More with a short jump shot for a basket and a 23-8 lead.
All the while the Cavaliers pressured the Wildcats, both in half-court sets and a trapping full-court press after made shots. With STM clicking at both ends of the floor, Custer struggled to get into any offensive flow the rest of the way.
“Once we started picking up our defense, we either got open looks or we’d pull it out and get into our set offense,” Klosterman said. “Custer’s point guard (Wahlstrom) is the main part of their offense. So we were trying to get after her. That caused more turnovers, and they just broke down.”
In addition to Timmer’s 22-point night, More got 12 points from sophomore forward Mairin Duffy.
The Cavaliers (8-0, 3-0 BHC) hit the road for a Friday game at West Central, tipping off at 5:30 p.m. MT in Hartford, before competing in the Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace in Mitchell on Saturday.
Custer (6-4, 1-2 BHC) travels to Wall to take on the Eagles (4-4) at 5 p.m. Friday.