by John Bohnenkamp
The challenge was there for the outside shooters on Holy Trinity’s girls basketball team.
New London’s 2-3 zone defense shut off any room inside for the Crusaders, and if they were going to win Tuesday’s home game, they were going to have to make shots.
Once the Crusaders started doing that in the second half, things got easier.
Holy Trinity pulled away to take a 45-38 win on the strength of a third-quarter surge from the outside.
“When we started making shots tonight, they had to come out on us,” Holy Trinity coach Tony Johnson said. “Once you make that outside shot, everybody is aware and starts coming out there.”
The Crusaders (8-7) trailed 24-19 early in the third quarter before Maria Rauenbuehler hit back-to-back shots from just inside the 3-point arc, then Bailey Hellweg hit a 3-pointer to put Holy Trinity up 28-26.
That softened the defense of the Tigers (4-11), and the Crusaders started scoring inside. All four of Holy Trinity’s fourth-quarter field goals were in the paint, and the Crusaders kept control by hitting six free throws in the closing five minutes.
There was already a blueprint on how to defend the Crusaders.
“Central Lee did that to us a couple of weeks ago, packed it like that, and we couldn’t make a shot,” said Johnson, referring to a 46-25 loss to the Hawks on Jan. 10.
New London led by as much as five points on two occasions in the first half as the Crusaders kept missing from the outside.
“They just played a 2-3 and didn’t come out of the lane,” Johnson said. “They just left us open and we didn’t make shots.”
The Crusaders had balanced scoring. Claire Pothitakis led Holy Trinity with eight points. Ashlynn Haas and Rauenbuehler each had seven points. Hellweg and Raquel Schneider each had six.
“We adjusted with three kinds of defense, and three offenses we haven’t run since about the fourth week of the season, so we did a good job with that,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of them. We were flat in the first half, a little bit flat in the third quarter, and kind of woke up in the fourth quarter and realized that there’s a game going on.”