Lobos' defense clamps down on Lady Cougars

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By Joe Vaccarelli

Conifer girls basketball head coach Jon Marston knows that you need to play good defense to win at any level and he has preached that to his team.

The Lobos certainly showed they were listening on Jan. 8 as they improved to 11-0 on the season by beating bitter rival Evergreen 54-43 on the Cougars’ home court.

“That’s our main focus, defense, especially man-to-man,” Marston said. “I told the girls before the game, it comes down to defense. Who plays the best defense is whose going to win the game, and that’s any game.”

The Lobos’ defense certainly gave Evergreen fits all game as they were never able to establish a rhythm offensively and trailed by double digits for most of the game.

Conifer got off to a hot start offensively, knocking down open shots as junior Kat Noriega scored all 10 of her points early in the first half. The Lobos were also able to get out and run as they were able to break Evergreen’s press and get some easy layups.

“In the first half we were able to push the ball a lot better,” Noriega said. “In the second half they switched it up and played pretty good defense and shut us down for a little while, but we held strong.”

The No. 3-ranked Lobos also got strong scoring efforts from Cara Walderman, who pitched in 13 points, and Allison Gorrell, who had 17 to lead all scorers.

For the No. 7-ranked Cougars, it was their second loss to a ranked team this year and head coach Ali Meyers was quick to give credit to the Lobos for stymieing her offense all night.

“You have to give them credit, they play really tough, physical, solid, man, half-court defense,” Meyers said. “Their defense put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t handle it well.”

The Lobo defense forced numerous turnovers that led to transition baskets for Conifer, while forcing the Cougars to make tough shots.

The Cougars were led by senior Grace Beaudin, who scored a team-high 13 points, but many of those points came at the free-throw line as she was constantly harassed by multiple Conifer defenders and unable to get to the basket regularly.

Beaudin was the only Cougar in double figures as most of the team was held under their season scoring average. That included point guard Haley Stading, who spent most of the game trying to find a way to beat the Lobo defense and establish a half-court offense, which the Cougars have struggled to do so far this year.

“I had to pass the ball early or they would collapse on us,” Stading said. “We’re not a good half-court offense yet, but we’re working on that. We like to fast break more and we didn’t get a chance to do that as much. We have a lot to work on, but we’ll be ready next time.”

The game took place just three nights after a tragic car accident claimed the lives of two Conifer students. In the Evergreen hallway and in the gym, which was packed with students and parents from both schools, were posters saying “We’ll Miss You,” and a moment of silence was observed before the game.

It’s safe to say that some of the players in this game were playing with a much heavier heart than normal.

“I know they’re in our hearts and it affected everybody even if you didn’t know them. All you got to do is stay strong and support everybody else,” Noriega said.