ANGOLA – Rivalry, payback, momentum; there was a lot at stake in this one for Garrett.
From the moment that Bailey Kelham dropped her defender on her first basket of the game, we knew that Garrett at Angola – part one for this year – was going to be a lot of fun. It didn’t let down.
It wasn’t until the second half and Garrett’s side splitting defensive effort, that there was a clear cut winner in hand. In the end, that defensive effort earned the Railroaders their first major win of the season, 52-38.
“It’s huge to come on the road after the way last year finished with [Angola] and then to overcome a lot of adversity,” said Garrett coach Bob Lapadot. “I thought our bench gave us enough minutes. I thought Kaitlyn Bergman was huge. And then you know, once they [Angola] had to go man, it’s over. We knew they were going to run the trap, we have to do a better job at knocking down shots against that but once they went man, we were sitting pretty good.”
Kelham and Angola’s Lauren Leach took turns attacking early. While Leach was aggressive in getting to the rim, Kelham was playing a suave game with nice dribble moves that kept her defenders trailing behind her. The two kept the game close with Angola closing the first quarter on a run, mostly on the hands of Leach both scoring and finding teammates like a nice dump off to Leah Snyder.
Angola pulled ahead in the second quarter for a brief time, a lot on hands of Kylie Caswell, who started to find her motion curling to the right side for sometimes wild, mostly effective shots.
The first half was what we expected out this game. Arguably the two best teams in the NECC, now seasoned rivals, exchanging shots. Everybody got involved early in the game that was 21-20 at the break. You could see it written all over their faces too: for Garrett they weren’t going to drop another tough game to Angola like last season, and for the Hornets, well they certainly weren’t ready to give up bragging rights.
Turns out, Garrett’s motivation was biggest in the locker room at halftime. Their one point halftime lead grew to six as Kelham got going to start the third. Then, before Angola could even blink, they were down nine after being outscored 12-3 to begin the second half. And kudos to Garrett’s defense for altering the game. It wasn’t just that Kelham was heating up and Nataley Armstrong was dropping bodies as she worked to a game high 10 assists.
On the other end of the court, Morgan Ostrowski’s defense was headline worthy. Bounce sat next to a good friend who coaches in the area on Tuesday night and we couldn’t help but to marvel in the way that Ostrowski absolutely shut down the work of Leach, who had a productive first quarter. Angola was held to just four made shots in the third quarter, all from Caswell. That was pushed by the fact that Leach couldn’t get by the wall that Ostrowski built. Hard attacking, good dribble drive, reset and try again…nothing was getting by Ostrowski on Tuesday night. Almost like she knew she needed to find a way to not just make a difference, but be THE difference.
“She’s an Indiana All-Star if you ask me,” Lapadot said of Ostrowski. “She can do it all. She showed it tonight, she just got after it. How many times do you see a 6-1 center just stepping over screens, clearing her hips, getting through. I just can’t say enough about her, we are lucky to have her. That versatility, what she does for our team is really…there are not words for it.”
Garrett led by eight after three and it ballooned even more as Taylor Gerke scored the first five points of the fourth. With Leach still locked down, the Railroaders started pinning the drives of Caswell along the right baseline, rendering her offense futile at times in the fourth. Garrett scored the first eight of the quarter and outscored Angola 31-18 in the second half to close out the biggest win they could ask for this early in the season.
The win solidifies Garrett’s spot at the top of the NECC and it helps avenge a couple of losses from last season to Angola. It also puts the Railroaders in the driver’s seat for two possible matchups with Angola still to come this season. But to Bounce, it did even more: it proved that when teams turn it up on Garrett, this seasoned and hungry group can fire right back, turning it up themselves to a level that perhaps we have not seen out of Garrett yet.
“To get that feeling back going into the holiday and starting our conference season…it is tough when the perennial one of the top two teams in the conference you’ve got to play right off the bat,” Lapadot said. “I think that is probably a pretty excited locker room and a feeling of emotion that we will continue to ride.”
Gerke ended up leading the scoring for Garrett with 15 points, adding five rebounds and three steals. Kelham scored 15 and had six rebounds, Ostrowski scored 13 and Armstrong added six points, seven rebounds and the aforementioned 10 assists for Garrett.
Angola was paced by Caswell’s 14 points and 10 out of Leach.
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