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Eagles call out guards for 'Dogs

January 06, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When you've got speed, pressure defense and good guard play all working together, chances for victory are excellent.

Hedgesville had those three components in its favor and the Eagles bumped Martinsburg from the unbeaten ranks 55-30 on Tuesday night, remaining unbeaten themselves with the Apple Valley League victory.

The Eagles (6-0, 2-0) pressured Martinsburg into 15 turnovers in the first half, including 10 in a decisive second period, converting them into 12 points with speed in transition that had the Bulldogs reeling and back on their heels.

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"We've not normally been known as a tough man-to-man defensive team and that was one of our goals at the beginning of the year," said Hedgesville coach Ben Merica. "Tonight, we wanted to terrorize them early and that's what we've done all year."

When Hedgesville got in an offensive pattern, usually a 1-4 set, the Eagles' guards were deft with their ballhandling and passing, often finding someone open alone the weakside in the paint. Martinsburg was defenseless against it.

"We've got three really good guards handling the ball" said Merica, referencing Miranda Reed, Ashton Butler and Jennifer Hoffman, along with Laura Ashton coming off the bench. "They worked the 1-4 set with penetration and passing down on the block. It's such an advantage to have girls that handle the basketball so well."

Martinsburg (4-1, 3-1) led 8-7 midway through the first period on a goal by Rachel Hull before the Eagles really laid down the law on the Bulldogs.

Reed scored off a turnover, Hoffman had a putback, Samantha Guell added a pair of free throws and the Eagles led 13-8, never to trail again.

The major difference was second period, when Martinsburg failed to record a field goal and came out on the short end of a 16-1 period and a 31-12 halftime score.

"There was a lot of offense (in the first half) that I haven't even seen run," said Martinsburg coach Beth Sedlar. "We were playing with the deer-in-a-headlight syndrome."

Only eight points by Hull in the first half kept things from being worse for Martinsburg, as Hedgesville totally shut down LaToya Buckner, holding the center scoreless until she hit a pair of free throws at the 4:32 mark of the third period.

The Eagles also dominated the boards at both ends early, including a 10-2 advantage on the offensive glass. Butler and Jennie Finafrock each had three offensive boards in the first half and five of those were converted into baskets.

"We look at this as a big win ... every game is a big win," said Merica. "We didn't play well on offense in the beginning, but the key was our defense."

Finafrock led the Eagles with 14 points, Reed had 12 and Guell added 10 for the Eagles, who hit 23 of 56 from the floor (41 percent).

Hull was the only Bulldog to reach double figures with 14 points, hitting 6 of 7 shots, all in the paint. Martinsburg, which had 25 turnovers compared to 11 for Hedgesville, hit 11 of 30 shots (38 percent).

"I told the girls they can hang their heads and mope or take some of the things we did positive in the second half and go from there," said Sedlar, who will have to regroup her troops for an invasion Saturday by University, another of West Virginia's highly rated teams.

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