WINONA LAKE – Lakeland Christian Academy head coach Allison Kauffman had hoped her team could pressure the ball enough to get a quick start in its season opener.
Her team got the message loud and clear.
The Cougars came up with 26 steals in the game and held Cornerstone Christian Prep without a shot for the first four minutes in what amounted to a 52-16 girls basketball rout Tuesday night.
“We’ve focused on being really aggressive from the start,” Kauffman said. “The girls did just that. We didn’t have a solid start (on offense), but we made up for it defensively. I was really pleased with what I saw from us defensively. We can’t always control whether our shots are falling, but we can always control the effort we give on defense.”
A three-point make by Destiny Smith at the 4:02 mark of the first quarter ended Cornerstone’s drought to start the game, and consequently was the closest the game would get going forward with the score 8-3. Tori Calizo would go down and immediately make a shot to run the lead to seven. A 14-5 LCA lead after the end of the first quarter saw the Cougars pitch a shutout in the second quarter, making a 17-0 run over the next eight minutes into a 31-5 blowout heading into the half.
LCA did it with a mild press, tighter in the frontcourt in the first quarter and then stronger at the midcourt stripe in the second. Jessi Calizo made a big impression defensively in her freshman debut, notching seven steals to go with eight rebounds while senior Anna Reimink and junior Tori Calizo both had five steals and a combined eight rebounds.
Reimink, being asked to do more on the offensive end this season with the graduation of super scorer Hope Fancil, had 12 points and passed on several opportunities to pad her stats to get her teammates involved. Reimink had three assists, but also committed seven turnovers, on a couple occasions trying to make the extra pass that wasn’t there.
“We had a lot of moments tonight where we made some mistakes or gave up the chance to make the easy play,” Kauffman said. “Anna is a selfless leader by heart. She would rather a teammate take the shot rather than her. It’s going to be a challenge for her to see that what’s best for the team is her taking and making more shots. It’ll be a process, but she did a great job attacking the basket and that’s what we want to see more of her early on.”
Tori Calizo finished with a game-high 17 points while Jessi Calizo, Maddie Paris, Abigail Fishel and Carly O’Hara all ended with four points. O’Hara added four steals, two rebounds and two assists.
Jayla Early led Cornerstone with seven second-half points.
LCA opens at 1-0 and heads to South Bend Friday night to take on South Bend Career Academy in its Hoosier Plains Conference opener. Before Tuesday night’s game, the Cougars celebrated its 2018 Hoosier Plains Conference championship title with its banner that will hang in the gym, the first title in conference history.
“We just wanted to get them moving again, get the ball bouncing,” Kauffman said on getting the season started. “It always takes a first game to get loose again. You definitely saw it at the beginning of the game, the nerves, the pauses to kind of think ‘what do I do here?’ moments. The first half, really the whole game, we never really got into a flow of things. Kind of chaotic and sped up, but that’s good for us to get going in some regard with a lot of new faces for us.”