ATTICA - Seneca East coach Dave Stallings said that leading up to Friday's season opener, his team didn't have an identity.
Some talented players have gone through the program in recent years, but that, in fact, was the problem. They were gone.
Stallings said he was looking to see how this year's team was going to forge its own identity and after Friday's opener, it appeared he got the answers he was looking for.
Four of the five Tiger starters scored in double figures and the fifth was a point shy of joining them. It all added up to a 63-49 season-opening victory over Buckeye Central.
"That's what we've been working for," Stallings said. "[I said the other day] we just haven't found our identity and I think tonight we're starting to find our identity. The last couple years we've been, Erica Cramer, Ashton Daniel. Those kids are gone now and these kids need to create their own identity. And I think tonight, all the work we've put in, they've stepped up and that's what we've been working for."
Stallings might not have been able to script a better opening for his team this year. In the first quarter, the Tigers limited the Bucks to just one field goal while giving the nets at their own end of the floor a workout. Seina Adachi scored nine of her team-high 15 in the opening frame while Amber Enders tossed in six as Seneca East built a 25-5 lead after one period.
Helping cause the separation was the fact that Seneca East forced Buckeye Central into 11 turnovers while committing only one through the first eight minutes.
"That was a great way to start the year," Stallings said. "That's what we've been preaching, and preaching and preaching, take care of the basketball, and they did. As the game went on, I think the legs got a little tired, we made some bad decisions, but overall I'm pleased with them, every one of them."
"We played really well and we had good defensive," Seneca East senior Brittany Brookes added. "We've been practicing that a lot and we excelled well in that. We got down the court like we've been practicing, and it led to good things for us."
After falling behind big, Buckeye Central coach Greg Moore saw his team fight back, getting within five late in the second quarter. But the Bucks weren't able to overcome the early deficit.
"We just dug ourselves a hole there early," Moore said. "You can't spot somebody 20 points. I told the girls I said 'You can't give up 25 points in a quarter. You can't do it in any basketball. I thought they dug in, they did some good things. It seemed like the lid was on the basket the first quarter also. I give Seneca East credit, they played some good defense. We missed some bunnies, we missed some layups, we missed some free throws. We're a work in progress and I'm happy with the effort."
The Bucks rallied in the second quarter, led by the team's two seniors, Brooke Karl and Kilee Kimmell. Kimmel knocked down a pair of 3's en route to scoring 11 in the frame, while Karl was cleaning up the glass.
"Kilee Kimmel and Brooke Karl both played like seniors," Moore said. "I don't know how many rebounds Brooke had but it was pretty remarkable."
The answer was 15 in the first half an 19 total.
"She kept us in the game the first half with her boards," he said. "And Kilee did a good job with the shooting end of it."
But Seneca East's balanced offensive attack kept the Bucks from mounting a serious threat. Enders finished with 14 points while also pulling down eight rebounds. Brookes knocked down a pair of trifectas in the second half to keep Buckeye Central at arm's length, and finished with 12 points. Kirsten Camp tallied 10.
Hannah Hahler finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
Stallings credited the hustle of his players as a key for their production, especially highlighting his post players, Hahler, Enders and Paige Reichert.
"One thing we've been working on is all five of them getting up and down the floor," he said. "I think you saw that from Hannah and Amber and Paige coming off the bench. There was no slupping off, for lack of a better word. They were hustling and that's what we've been working on."