PORTLAND — It’s not every week that the HRV girls basketball team gets to watch the boys play. Usually, when the girls are at home, the boys are on the road.
But last Thursday was different. The girls team watched the boys beat No. 9 state-ranked Central Catholic 68-59, and tried to carry some of that momentum with them to Portland on Friday when they battled the No. 2 state-ranked Central Catholic girls team.
They obviously learned something about playing up to the level of the competition, because when the final whistle blew, the Eagles (2-4, 3-8) had pushed the Rams to their limit, before eventually bowing out 41-37 in overtime.
“Everyone on the team played a great game,” assistant coach Kevin Morgan said. “We really controlled the tempo and had little trouble breaking their press.”
Lindsay Benjamin led HRV with 16 points and was followed by Becca Meierbachtol with 10 and Meghan Merz with 9. But the real difference in the game was the ball-handling and court leadership of the point guard, Meierbachtol.
“We did a great job of spreading the court and Central just couldn’t contain Becca,” Morgan said. “She was able to penetrate and kick the ball back out for open looks all game.”
Morgan said Mickie Halliday also played huge in the paint during the second half and got every defensive rebound down the stretch to keep the Eagles close.
Official rebounding numbers were not available, but Morgan was confident that his team more than held its own against a strong, athletic and very tall Central Catholic squad.
“One of the big keys was that we didn’t force shots,” he said. “We were very patient on offense and were able to slow down the game, which frustrated them.
“I scouted them last week and knew that they would come at us with their press the whole game. But we had broken them down so bad by the late second half that they sort of gave up trying to pressure us,” he said.
The Eagles defense was also highly effective against the Rams, limiting them to just seven points in the second half. Becki Flory played an outstanding game on defense and offense, despite scoring just two points.
“Becki played her best game all season,” Morgan said. “Her interior passes and play on defense really helped set a tone for the way our team played.”
Morgan and the players thought Central Catholic may have been looking past the Eagles after beating three of the state’s top teams — Crater, Jesuit and Glencoe — in the Portland Holiday Tournament.
But like the Rams’ boys team learned the previous night, you can never look past a conference opponent.
“What I hope will come out of this game is our kids turning the corner,” Morgan said. “I think the gals are really starting to buy into our system here.”
The girls will get their chance to watch the boys team again Friday, as HRV hosts Barlow in two games at HRVHS. The girls play at 5:45 p.m., while the boys tip off at 7:30 p.m.