By Aaron Korte
OLD FORT - After the game, Old Fort coach Jenny Miller knocked down one of the youngest Stockaders supporters who was chasing after a loose ball.
She chalked it up as an accident, but based on the way her team plays when a basketball is nearby, one couldn't be so sure her team isn't modeling their behavior after her.
Miller may think her team is prim and proper but the Stockaders are down right mean and nasty.
They will steal, claw and bump their way to the goal.
And that's just to get the ball.
Never mind if a girl, or a bevy of girls, stands in the way of the basket.
"Our girls will take it at them. It doesn't matter who it is," she said.
The Stockaders had 23 steals, 20 fouls and, despite being outsized, 45 rebounds on Thursday night in a 50-37 defeat of Hopewell-Loudon.
"They don't show a lot of emotion. You want your players to have emotion, but at the same time, they never get up. They never get down," Miller said. "I'm trying for that (killer instinct) out of them, but like I said, they don't show a lot of emotion. So I don't know if that's how they are. They're very polite, nice girls. I'm trying to get that mentality in their heads and they don't express a lot. I'm assuming it's sinking in."
The Stockaders (12-3, 5-0 Midland Athletic League) used a 19-5 third quarter to overcome a 24-23 halftime deficit to go up 42-29 and never look back.
"The first half was an ugly first half. We made some adjustments, some things we were going to do at halftime and we came out and did absolutely none of those in the second half. They made a great run on us," Hopewell-Loudon coach Rod Daniel said. "Their pressure (was a problem). We were just throwing the ball all over the gym. It came down to we didn't do anything that we talked about at halftime. We just played a second half."
The third quarter was critical as Old Fort forced eight turnovers, seven off steals, and used a 14-11 rebounding advantage to push the margin to double digits.
"We talked at half about the fact that the third quarter is the most important quarter, that you have to come out stronger than you did in the first and they did a good job with that with our pressure," Miller said.
Old Fort used its full-court pressure and on-ball defense to secure 19 steals, led by Mackenzie Ward's six. Alli Adelsperger added another four.
"We told them 'You have to lay it on thick,'" Miller said. "We're oversized by a lot of teams so we have to make sure that's what we're good at and we make sure we come out and do right."
Daniel said his team had problems with Old Fort's quickness.
"We're really comfortable with our press breaker, but when we get the ball to the middle, we're not looking at the basket. We're just turning and throwing where we think somebody is going to be right now. And that's not going to get it done," Daniel said. "That proved the course tonight because they're quick, they're scrappy and if you don't make solid passes, they're up in the lanes and getting after it."
But the rebounding was just as crucial to Old Fort's win. While the Chieftains won the glass battle, 50-45, Old Fort held Hopewell-Loudon to just two offensive boards in the third quarter. That was a big difference to the 15 they gave up in the first half.
"We almost box out too hard and we just stay boxing out. We don't make a play on the ball," Miller said. "They did a great job of releasing out of those box outs and going and getting the ball. We just told them you have to battle. There was a lot of jump balls called out of them and we're still working on being strong."
No one reached double figures for the Chieftains (8-5, 2-3) as Old Fort flustered Courtney Burns and Aleta Daniel, holding each to six points. Alexis Feindel had eight points to pace the Chieftains.
"What a group. Not a lot of size but they get after it," Daniel said. "They play hard and they play with a lot of heart. Loose balls, they got after it tonight. We didn't do a very good job of boxing out on the backside and they crashed hard."
Burns had 12 rebounds and Brooke Arbogast led everyone with 14.
"We got out of control and too much individual and people trying to do things on their own," Daniel said. "Once they made that run, everyone was trying to get back themselves rather than running what we had worked on and what we had scouted to make a game of it."
Jordan Magers paced Old Fort with a double-double: 13 points and 11 rebounds. Alli Adelsperger had 11 points and Peyton Miller had nine.
"I thought the girls came out and did the little things right," coach Miller said. "They never let down. We talked to them about these good teams in the MAL have a different mentality when they play a good team and I think our girls are showing that in game situations."