Old Fort continues to surprise

OLD FORT – Vanlue coach Todd Richards said after his team’s game Tuesday at Old Fort, the Stockaders had a few things his team didn’t. Namely, intensity and depth.

But there’s something his team has that Old Fort doesn’t: losses.

Old Fort jumped out fast and keep its foot on the gas all 42 minutes in a 65-30 win over Vanlue, moving to 6-0 on the year.

Stockader coach Jenny Miller said she was looking for her players to step up on the defensive end.

“I gave them a few challenges before the game,” she said. “I mentioned on our press, we need those girls in the back ready to come up and run through passing lanes. I told them, ‘If you’re not running through them or you’re standing around not knowing what’s going on, you’re coming out.’ They were all wide-eyed and aware on the court.”

Challenge accepted. The Stockaders forced Vanlue into 22 turnovers, 14 coming off of steals. With those steals came fast breaks and transition points that allowed Old Fort to build a lead.

“I thought our defense stepped it up and we all played well,” Old Fort’s Sammy Miller said. “We were focused on stealing the ball and running the ball up the floor We all worked together well as a team and I thought all we all played well on defense tonight.”

“Our press was really successful,” Sam Hartsel added. “We had people in places that they should be. We were just jumping lanes and getting into it.”

Richards said Old Fort played at a level his girls couldn’t match.

“We did not match their intensity from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” he said after his team dropped to 2-4. “Their girls wanted it more, it was obvious right from the first quarter. They started pressing us and we had no answer.”

Richards said it wasn’t the scheme Old Fort was using, rather the players they had executing it.

“It’s not that difficult of a defense, it’s the personnel they have,” he said. “They’re running out all those quick little girls at you. They’re scrappy, they get after the ball and they’re relentless. And then when they have the ability to sub in four, five at a time, that puts you in a real jam cause they’re bringing fresh girls and your girls are tired. That just makes that pressure that much more intense.”

Old Fort’s rotation features a mix of upperclassmen and freshmen who have blended together to create a balanced offense.

“We got a lot of newcomers coming in and with us older kids, we really connected well and it’s really helping us out this season,” Hartsel, one of the team’s veterans, said “Most of us, we’re juniors we’re scoring, but our underclassmen have really stepped up and helped us. To spread out the scoring as well as we have, it’s been really good for us.”

Old Fort raced out to a 36-21 halftime lead with the scoring spread out through the lineup. Heading to the locker room, Sammy Miller, another junior, had eight with two of the freshmen, Alli Adelsperger and Peyton Miller right behind her with seven.

The only thing that changed after the break was the players that were scoring points. Shelby Bilger scored eight of her 10 in the second half and Sara Bell had all eight of her points come after halftime.

Sammy Miller finished with team-high 15 and Hartsel had 10 points to go along with 11 rebounds.

“I thought we had a really good offensive. A lot of our girls had balanced scoring,” Sammy Miller said. “We all just scored well and we looked for each other, all the way until the end of the game. We try to give each other open opportunities, look into our posts, let our guards shoot. I thought we all worked together great.”

The game was still manageable for Vanlue, down 15 at the break. But Old Fort outscored the Wildcats 29-9 in the second half.

“That’s what we told them, seven baskets, that’s nothing,” Richards said of his team still having a shot at a comeback. “We were seven baskets away from being right back in the game. We go out, get a score, then kind of do what we do. Let them take it to us and we sat back and watched.”

Coach Miller said she was looking for her team to play just as strong in the third quarter, as it had up to that point in the game.

“We just came out hard, we knew we had to hustle, we had to keep pushing the ball,” she said. “Kind of like the third lap in a mile run. Everyone else gets a little bit tired, they go a little bit slower. In basketball, third quarter’s got to be your best. You got to come out your hardest, hustling.”

“We have numbers to run and we realized they didn’t have the numbers to run,” Hartsel added. “We just wanted to take it at them and wear them down as much as we could.”

The mood in the Old Fort locker room is much different this year than it was after last year’s 1-22 season. But while the Stockaders are enjoying their winning ways, they’re still working hard to keep the winning streak going as long as it can.

“There’s a lot of celebrating afterward,” Sammy Miller said. “But once the time comes, the next day we’re right back at it, ready for the next game.”