One of the main reasons for the success of the St. John the Baptist girls basketball team in its rise to prominence has been its pressure defense.
But it didn't look that way in the first half Friday night, especially when Kellenberg's Katie Cunningham inbounded the ball to Khadijah Donaldson under the basket for an easy layup with 1.8 seconds left and a nine-point lead.
St. John the Baptist spent the entire halftime in the locker room and didn't warm up before the second half. Apparently, the memo to play pressure defense was received by all. St. John the Baptist allowed 18 second-half points in a 47-44 home win.
"Our defense has always been strong," SJB's Alexis Smith said. "We just had to pick up the intensity. Once we got it going, it was perfect for us. We switched well and kept the pressure on the ball."
SJB (8-8, 6-2 CHSAA) closed the game on a 9-1 run, sparked by Kamala Thompson's three-pointer with 1:54 left, and limited Kellenberg to one field goal in the final 2:11.
"The rotation on our defense and how we help is critical," SJB coach Ted Oberg said. "We had some miscommunications. Down the stretch it was better."
SJB took its first lead with 1:02 left. Smith grabbed a rebound, took it the length of the court and fed a bounce pass to Brianna Thomas for a layup and a 45-44 lead.
Smith (13 points) hit two free throws with 37 seconds left to cap the scoring, but SJB went 0-for-3 from the foul line in the final 21 seconds, giving Kellenberg a chance to tie.
Emma O'Connor (13 points, 19 rebounds) missed a three-pointer with six seconds left and missed a running three at the buzzer for Kellenberg (7-4, 4-2), which was led by Donaldson's 15 points.
"We got away from everything we were doing well all game," Kellenberg coach Meghan Moran said. "We know about their pressure defense. We practiced against it. We dribbled too much and broke down."
SJB began to drive to the basket more in the final quarter, resulting in seven points from the free-throw line. Thomas had seven of her 15 points in the quarter.
"We had to try something different," Thomas said. "Moving the ball wasn't working. We had to attack the basket."