BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Tony Johnson is looking forward to a little break to give the Holy Trinity girls basketball team some time to recuperate.
The Lady Crusaders rebounded for a two-game skid to defeat WACO at home Friday night 46-29, but the head coach said there are still a lot of things to work on.
“It’s finals week, we got out early every day this week and now we’re in Christmas mode and we got family in town and everybody’s excited about it,” Johnson said.
“But we still gotta play basketball and we still gotta rebound. Tonight it wasn’t where we want to be.”
The Crusaders started a bit anemic from the field going 3 of 12 in the first quarter. But fortunately WACO was even more so converting just one field goal on four shots in the first quarter and trailing 8-2 at the end of one.
Holy Trinity would turn the ball over on three straight possessions to start the second period and allowed the Warriors to get back in the game. Senior Laney Graber scored on a floater from the right baseline to knot the game at 8.
Freshman Brooke Mueller would score inside for Holy Trinity to take a 10-8 lead, a lead the Crusaders wouldn’t give up the rest of the night.
Senior Ashlyn Haas, who finished with 14 points on the night, converted the back end of a two-shot bonus after getting fouled on a drive. She then hit a 3-ball from the left wing to put HTC up comfortably 14-8 with 4:53 left in the half.
HTC wouldn’t score another field goal until junior Claire Pothitakis stole the ball and went 3/4 court for a layup just before the buzzer sounded for an 18-10 Crusaders’ lead at the half.
Haas picked up her third foul in the second period and didn’t start the third quarter, but HTC didn’t need the senior guard as senior Avery Hopper hit two 3-pointers and junior Bailey Hellweg added another in the opening two minutes to push the lead to 14.
WACO’s Molly McLaughlin countered with a 3-pointer, but the Warriors would only get two more buckets in the period as HTC had the game well in hand with a 30-17 lead at the end of three.
The pace of the game would pick up in the fourth quarter as the two teams combined for 10 personal fouls. WACO would cut the lead to nine at 34-25 with 4:15 left, but Hass and Hopper both fired in 3-pointers within 13 seconds of each other to pen the lead back up to 13.
WACO would only convert two more field goals the rest of the way and got into a situation where they had to foul to stop the clock and Haas converted four straight to ice the game.
Haas said the Crusaders are having trouble getting the wheels rolling in the short turnaround from volleyball to basketball.
“Its hard for us to get started and get on a roll. But once we do get on a roll, we can stay on it,” she said.
“But it’s just hard for us to get there initially. Tony’s been pushing us hard to start out faster.”
Johnson said he was disappointed with the Crusaders’ intensity and rebounding on the night.
“You don’t have to be a good shooter or dribbler in order to rebound, hustle and get on the floor for loose balls. And that’s what I’ve been preaching to them,” he said.
“It’s a grind right now. We’re still hungover from volleyball, we’ve got some tired legs.”
Hopper led the Crusaders with 15 points, followed by Haas’ 14. Mueller had seven on the night, while Hellweg and Raquel Schneider each had three. Pothitakis and Kassi Randolph each had two in the win.
The Crusaders (4-3) have one more game against Mediapolis Saturday afternoon and then are off until Jan. 3, when they take on West Burlington on the road.