Eagle girls looking for right mix

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By Brian Forbes

Dakota Ridge’s Traci Nemechek is a coach this month as much as she is an alchemist trying to find that elusive five-player mixture.

“Certain groups will come in and play really aggressive, and then other people come in and don’t maintain the intensity,” Nemechek said Friday night after the Eagles dispatched Doherty 57-36 in a Class 5A nonleague encounter.

The Eagles never trailed the shorthanded Spartans, turned an early advantage into a 25-point lead by the end of the third quarter and forced 37 turnovers.

However, there was a flip side. After a 21-point first quarter where they shot 10-of-15 from the floor, the Eagles shot 31 percent for the rest of the game and finished with 22 turnovers.

“We work hard,” senior Jennelle Branting said, “but we’re not too happy with our turnover issue right now.”

Branting led all scorers with 16 points and Lindsi Holm added 12 points and five rebounds as the Eagles (3-0) got points from nine of their 11 players.

The Spartans (1-2), who were without go-to senior Janae Deas (concussion), never found a rhythm on offense and were held to just one point and 0-for-10 shooting in the third quarter.

“Defensively we’re doing some things well, but we need to improve on them,” Nemechek said. “Some of the thing is we had people playing in different positions. They play guard, they play forward and they kind of don’t know where they belong at times. That’s a communication thing. We need to do a better job talking on the floor.”

The Eagles were crisp early, quickly opening up an 11-2 lead on the strength of their screens, pressure defense and unselfish passing.

Jenna Santistevan and substitute Tira Callaway both registered blocked shots and Holm drained the Eagles’ only 3-pointer of the game with a catch-and-shoot from the top of the key.

The Eagles pushed their lead to 33-17 late in the second quarter on Callaway’s free throw before nearly shutting out the visitors in the third.

Despite 11 turnovers, the Eagles kept the Spartans from scoring until there was 1:27 left in the third quarter. The Eagles outscored Doherty 14-1 and took their biggest lead (47-22) on a layup by junior Liz Malik.

“We for sure had a lot of energy from the crowd (and) from the team, which helped a lot,” Branting said. “The team worked really hard to get open.”

Santistevan finished with six points and eight rebounds, Brooke Pendergraft scored five and Callaway and Malik were two of four players to score four points.

The Spartans, who shot a frosty 28 percent (11-of-39) from the floor, got a team-best 14 points from guard Maria Kjosen.

Doherty 10-11-1-14—36

Dakota Ridge 21-12-14-10—57

Doherty: Kjosen 5 3-5 14, Crockett 1 0-1 2, Bruder 2 0-0 6, Richardson 0 2-2 2, Moore 2 1-3 5, Simpson 0 0-0 0, Tekavec 0 2-2 2, Rossoll 0 2-4 2, Griggs 0 1-4 1, Bauder 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 11-23 36.

Dakota Ridge: Baal 2 0-0 4, Santistevan 3 0-0 6, Branting 6 4-4 16, Pendergraft 2 1-2 5, Holm 5 1-2 12, Shepler 2 0-1 4, Callaway 1 2-4 4, Brandhorst 0 0-0 0, Schauer 1 0-0 2, Orcutt 0 0-0 0, Malik 2 0-0 4. Totals: 24 8-13 57.

3-point goals: Bruder 2, Kjosen; Holm.