RUSSIA — Anna put away a Shelby County Athletic League game on Thursday with the same thing that has helped in all its other wins this year: suffocating defense.
The Rockets shut down Russia for most of the second half and turned a four-point halftime lead into a 44-28 victory at Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium. It’s the sixth consecutive victory for Anna (12-4, 8-1 SCAL), which includes a win against previously undefeated Marion Local on Monday.
“We’re real pleased,” Anna coach Jeff Maurer said of the team’s recent success. “We want to keep the momentum going. It’s amazing that we’ve only got six games left and tournament draw is coming up, so we’ve got to keep improving and keep the momentum going.”
Anna, which beat Russia 36-22 in the teams’ first matchup on Dec. 7, dropped to 6-4 in a home loss to Versailles on Dec. 26 but beat Waynesville by six points two days later and hasn’t lost since.
The Rockets haven’t allowed more than 28 points in their last five victories. Marion Local entered Monday’s matchup averaging 48.8 points per game but scored a season-low 24 points in a 14-point loss. The Flyers hadn’t scored less than 40 points before Monday.
Anna brought that same strong defense for three of the four quarters on Thursday. Senior forward Lauren Barhorst sat on the bench in foul trouble for most of the second quarter, and Russia took advantage by finding baskets in the post to power a 15-12 scoring edge.
But with Barhorst back on the court in the second half, Russia struggled to find shots and made three field goals.
“I’m real proud of the way we came out in that second quarter,” Maurer said. “Lauren makes a difference for us, but that’s going to happen where she’s on the bench, and other girls have to step up. But when she got back in, she did well. Even when she’s not scoring points, she makes a difference for us with her presence.
“I’m real proud of the way the girls played tonight and battled. Russia’s a good basketball team and a well-coached team, and we knew it was going to be a battle.”
“We have to bring it every day and be way more consistent with our energy,” Timmerman said. “We have to be more consistent with being mentally focused and knowing what we’re trying to execute. I definitely feel like some days, we are there. It definitely showed for about 12 minutes in that first half.
“We’re just not consistent with that. Our effort isn’t down; we’ve got plenty of effort and plenty of talent. It’s just a matter of how are we going to come together as a team and work together to start connecting the dots a little bit.”
Anna junior guard Ella Doseck, who scored a game-high 17 points, made a basket after a steal with 3:26 left in the first quarter to give Anna a 10-2 lead. The Raiders pulled within 13-6 by the end of the first and continued to narrow the gap in the second.
Russia sophomore forward Ella Hoehne made a basket with 4:36 left to cap off a 9-7 run that cut the gap to 20-15, then Jessica York scored a basket with 1:45 left to cut the lead to 25-21.
York, a senior guard, scored 12 of her 15 points in the first half, most of which came during the 12-minute span between the middle of the first quarter and halftime.
“We came out playing really strong, but in that second quarter, defensively we had a letdown,” Maurer said. “… We weren’t getting backside help. We were working to get in front and they were getting a pass from the corner to the top and getting it inside. The York girl was killing us in the post.”
Neither team scored again in the second quarter. Anna scored five points in the first two minutes of the third and pulled away from there. Kayli Brewer hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the quarter to boost the lead to 35-23.
“We dug ourselves a hole there but then we played really well as a team to get back in it,” Timmerman said. “The second half, we just weren’t playing together and were not executing what we needed to do.”
Anna shot 16 for 38 (42 percent) from the field while Russia shot 12 for 29 (41 percent). Russia outrebounded Anna 17-10 and had 14 turnovers while the Rockets had 10 turnovers.
The teams will continue SCAL play on Saturday, as Anna will host Houston and Russia will travel to Botkins.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.