By Will Willems Sports Editor
---- — Indianapolis — It all came down to the fourth quarter Wednesday night in the Lebanon Lady Tigers season opener against Cardinal Ritter.
But for Lebanon, there was no happy ending in the season opener, as an 11-2 run by the Raiders early in the quarter built a lead the Tigers couldn’t come back from in a 63-55 loss.
“I think we turned the ball over too much,” Lebanon head coach Beth DeVinney said. “We are still looking for our identity right now. We have been kind of going through this. We had our scrimmage Monday night and played a pretty good scrimmage against McCutcheon. We missed a lot of layups tonight, but that has been kind of characteristic of this team. We did that against McCutcheon too, we probably missed 20-25 layups. Those layups are backbreakers. We probably missed 10-12 tonight that would have turned the tide of the game.”
After losing Indiana All-Star Katie Curtis and 3-point specialist Aspen Davis to graduation, the Tigers have people looking to fill new roles.
DeVinney said that is going to be a process early in the season.
“People are different roles this year,” DeVinney said. “It is different all the way around not having Katie running the point. We are adjusting to our roles. Can I say I didn’t see this coming? No, I completely saw an early season loss coming. Did I expect it to happen tonight? I hoped that it wasn’t but I wasn’t that surprised. Ritter is a good team and we have a lot to learn. We have been preaching to them the last couple of weeks about their intensity on defense and they learned a hard lesson tonight about how hard they have to play. We will look to get better and improve every game.”
The score was tied at 10 after a quarter.
In the second stanza, Lebanon got into more of an offensive flow.
The Tigers scored 21 points in the quarter and led by as many as nine before settling for a seven-point halftime lead.
DeVinney said her team did some things in the second quarter that they got away from later in the game.
“We attacked the basket in the second quarter and made some free throws,” DeVinney said. “We knew that is what we had to do that against them because they are big and athletic. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of big kids and we have to get to the basket. We got away from that in the third quarter. We came out and started jacking up 3s and shooting shots that were uncharacteristic for us. We took very, very quick shots and that was the theme of the second half.”
The Tigers made the first basket of the third quarter to push the lead to nine, but the Raiders countered with a 15-2 run to take a 39-35 lead.
Ritter led by as many as five in the quarter, but Lebanon scored the final five points of the third quarter to tie the score at 43 heading to the final 8 minutes.
Lebanon took a 45-43 lead with 7:39 left in the game on a basket by Peyton Terrill, but an 11-2 run by Ritter pushed gave the hosts a lead.
The Tigers got within four with 2:03 to play on two free throws by Terrill, but couldn’t get any closer.
DeVinney said the Tigers made too many mistakes down the stretch.
“I think with the older kids they are just pressing a little bit, trying to make things happen,” DeVinney said. “The younger kids, it is just never being there before. Having young guards, that is going to be a learning process for them. We are going to keep plugging away at it. With the veteran kids, they just have to relax and play. And they didn’t do that. Tonight, I thought we were pressing. It was really an uncomfortable game, I really can’t describe it. We just didn’t play very well. We turned it over 21 times and when you do that you aren’t going to win.”
Kristen Spolyar led the Tigers with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Terrill had 11 points and Carly Greene added 10 in the loss.
Lebanon is back in action Saturday night when they host Zionsville.
“We want to communicate more,” DeVinney said. “And work on screens. Not hitting the screen and stopping, which is something we have talked about since last year. It is all a matter of want to, desire, listening, all of those. And we have to be coachable. Right now, we have some people who aren’t being very coachable. We have to be coachable. They have to listen and do what we ask them to do on the court.”
Tigers looking for fourth-straight conference title
The Tigers will enter this season the three-time defending conference and sectional champions, having not lost a conference game in those three years.
But this might be their toughest challenge to repeat after losing about 30 points in production last year, including Indiana All-State Katie Curtis.
“We are going to look to improve throughout the season,” DeVinney said. “It is going to be an up and down season. We are going to have some games where we struggle. We will have a game like (Wednesday) where we do something well like shoot free throws, but then struggle to put the ball in the basket. It is going to be the little things this season. Like tonight, we missed some layups. We make the layups we probably win, we missed them and we lost. We are talking about kids stepping up into roles they haven’t had to do before. You never know what you are going to get. But, I am proud of the effort some of the girls are giving in those roles right now, it is just early in the season and we will continue to get better.”
The Tigers do return one of the top sophomores in the state in Spolyar.
She led Lebanon in averaging 19.5 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Greene averaged 11.6 points and more than 6 rebounds a game, while Kallee Rice averaged 1.5 points and 2.5 rebounds.
DeVinney said the key for the Tigers will be balance.
“The key for us is that we don’t want anybody scoring 30 points a game — that is not our goal,” DeVinney said. “ Our goal is to have five or six girls averaging around 10, 12, 14 points a game. That is when we are at our best. That means the ball is moving, people are doing their jobs, cutting to the basket, making lay-ups, those kinds of things. That is really what we have to get to. Better ball movement and getting more teammates involved and finishing shots. We are going to designate any one kid to do that. Peyton and Carly stepped up and did some nice things tonight. It is just going to take us a while to get our feet underneath us. People put expectations on teams for what they did last year, and that is fine, but we lost a lot last year. These kids are having to fill new roles and they are having to fill them with unfair expectations. We are not worried that, we are just worried about being better by February.”
As for the conference, DeVinney said the toughest challenge for the Tigers’ quest for a four-peat will be their rivals from Western Boone.
“I think Western Boone has all their seniors back and this should be their year just like last year was ours,” DeVinney said. “They should probably win the conference this year and be favored in the sectional as well. But that is good, I’m glad we aren’t that team this year, our kids don’t need that pressure. We are just working to get better and we are going to work hard in every game no matter who we are playing. We have to do, what we do and we will be fine.”