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December 11, 2013

Physical game for Empire girls

Boys come up short against defensive-minded Bearcats

EMPIRE — Fouls, turnovers and silly mistakes mudded up both the Empire girls and boys basketball games. At the end, it was a split for the home school as it hosted Grandfield Tuesday.

Though school was closed for the day, the Bulldogs decided to continue with scheduled plans to face the visiting Bearcats. The girls basketball team did not disappoint, staying undefeated in dominant fashion with a 51-32 victory.

The key was getting out early. Lighting up the scoreboard in a hurry after tip-off, the girls knocked down jumper after jumper to gain a 26-8 halftime lead. The quick advantage was a talking point for coach Jason Allenswoth going into the game.

“That’s kind of a thing we’re hoping to develop this year, is to set the tone at the beginning of the game,” Allensworth said. “We want to let our opponent, our fans and everybody in the gym know how we are going to play for four quarters, in the tempo, the style, the aggressiveness and the work ethic.”

In this game, the Empire girls might have been a little too aggressive. The two team captains, seniors Jessica Carney and Kaelyn Allensworth, were in foul trouble throughout. It forced a lot of younger girls to take the court, and Kaelyn said the rampant foul calls “kind of got in their heads a little bit.” Carney admitted after the game that all the whistles became a bit frustrating.

While Jason was happy his team got the win, he hoped they could do a better job of adjusting to how the officials call the game.

“Don’t let those things outside of your control, control you,” Jason said. “Just be smart about how you play.”

The boys game didn’t run much smoother. Empire installed a 1-3-1 zone during its sparse practice time and it wreaked havoc on the visiting Bearcats. The final score of 41-29 got a bit out of hand, when Bulldog senior Tanner Ford fouled out with 3:47 left in the game. The score was 33-29 when that happened, and coach Stefan Hunt said it was a big blow.

“It really hurt us when they were calling those little tacky fouls on Tanner,” Hunt said. “Him not being in the game was a huge turning point. He wound up playing a quarter and a half of actual game time. He spent more time having to sit on the bench, but we’ve got to learn how to control his aggression.”

It wasn’t just the foul calls, though, that contributed to the onslaught of whistles in the duel. There was a multitude of traveling, three seconds in the key and palming violations committed by both teams.

With the lead teeter-tottering between the schools, Grandfield was finally able to put the nail in the coffin when Hunt struggled to find someone to replace Ford in the paint.

“Tanner is our nucleus,” Hunt said. “When you have only had seven practices, you don’t sit your best player down and start rotating into his position.”

Despite the loss, Hunt saw a lot of improvement in the team and hopes to continue to build on his defensive performance.

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